Marvin Mullen

Judging by the cover

Bright paintings inspired by library books at Adams and Ollman

The vibrancy of Marlon Mullen’s paintings beckons to every pedestrian who passes the broad windows of Adams and Ollman. The thirteen paintings included in Mullen’s solo exhibition are inspired by advertisements, as well as magazine and book covers running the gamut from Artforum and Art in America to knitting and cooking publications Mullen finds these visual references in the library at Nurturing Independence Through Artistic Development (NIAD), a Richmond, California art studio supporting artists with disabilities. Mullen, who is autistic and primarily nonverbal, has maintained his art practice at NIAD since 1985. His paintings translate the written language and imagery of his references into abstracted forms, creating an inspiring new layer of aesthetic function.

Marlon Mullen, Untitled (2015). Acrylic on canvas. 36 h x 36 w. Image courtesy of Adams and Ollman.

Upon entering the gallery, the viewer finds nine acrylic paintings on comparably-sized canvases lining three walls. Further back, a smaller room contains three additional paintings, and one more hangs behind the gallerist’s desk. Mullen’s references to graphic design, advertisements, language, fine art, and popular culture are swiftly apparent. Organic shapes in a palette of bright blues, pinks, yellows, and oranges make each work feel alive and confident. Key phrases emerge from the canvases: “The World of Rubens;” “Art in America;” “First Steps in Knitting;” “New American Paintings.” Yet no elaboration is provided—Mullen’s paintings are untitled. The words seem to exist primarily as compositional elements of the overall works; legibility and textual meaning is secondary.

Continues…