From an early age Lee Mullican was exposed to at least two elements that would affect his place in American art - he was surrounded by Native American culture AND by his mother's art supplies! His interest in art advanced with his age, bringing him to University of Oklahoma.
In 1941, after being drafted, into the UA Army corps of engineers in World War II, Lee Mullican's career as an artist might have diverged had a friend not invited him to San Francisco in 1946 to meet surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford. Onslow Ford, an emigre from Europe, in turn, introduced Mullican to surrealist artist and philosopher Wolfgang Paalen, who had also moved from Europe via Mexico to the United States. Mullican had read Paalen's "DYN" magazine while stationed in Hawaii during the war! The three artists realized a mutual interest in abstraction, cosmic cycles and the basic nature of space - both mental and physical. Calling themselves 'the Dynaton Group', they joined for their first and only exhibition of "Dynaton" at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1951.
Following the Dynaton exhibition, Mullican traveled to New Mexico with Luchita Hurtado, who was recently divorced from Wolfgang Paalen. They were married in 1954. During the 1950s the Mullicans traveled to Mexico, as a visiting scholar in Brazil and on a year-long Guggenheim scholarship in Rome Returning to Los Angeles in 1961, Mullican joined the faculty at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as professor and curator of art exhibits.
Mullican had developed an individual technique while visiting his friend Jack Stauffacher's printing press in San Francisco using a palette knife to lay his pigments onto the canvas. This resulted in 'light gathering' paintings creating luminous space through serial lines and the glowing palette in nature.;
In 1961 He joined the faculty at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as professor and curator of art, positions he held until retirement in 1990. He also opened a studio in west Los Angeles. He reinterpreted nature, abstracting Native American figuration and symbolism in palette and imagery. Three dimensional constructions and drawings that were equally important in capturing an meditative element relating to natural rhythms and life cycles. He saw his work as a transition between European modernism and American abstraction.
As attested by the renowned museums who have acquired Mullican's work for their permanent collections, LEE MULLICAN occupies a respected and individual position in American art history. His creative powers never waned."
Oil pastel on Fabriano 1960
28 1/4 x 20 3/8 inches (71.8 x 51.8cm)