Martin Mull | Split Infinitives

Martin Mull | Split Infinitives

November, 2010

Martin Mull’s work ethic is evident throughout his latest paintings: stark attention to detail combined with echoes of memory and time. Elements of history and landscape overlap in psychological symmetry, the resulting narrative of hope, anxiety, repression and elation come vividly to life in his epic oil paintings. Presented in Los Angeles for the first time in eight years, Martin Mull has only grown stronger and more confident in our absence. With Split Infinitives he plumbs the depths of our collective subconscious, spilling our remembered dreams out onto linen and paper.

Martin Mull pulls the curtain on the frayed American dream in Split Infinitives, an exhibition of paintings opening at Samuel Freeman.  Mull’s nearly monochromatic palette creates oddly improbable, wistfully exquisite portraits of a time that never was. His muted tones evoke a handful of post-war promises – the malaise of industrialized plenty, the smiling suburban matron, the feigned largess of corporate polluters – to the refrain of the American work song. With a deft touch and confidence found only from a day-in-day-out craftsman’s pride, Split Infinitives enthralls viewers with its subdued grace—while simultaneously tugging the loose thread of failed expectation. This is the dramatic irony of Mull’s work: clever, confident, quick-witted and gorgeous paintings grown from the grass of midcentury America.

Mull’s paintings are so deliberately worked that they appear photorealistic at first glance; close-to they are elaborately orchestrated point-and-shoot-from-the-hip landscapes.  Textually, a split infinitive consists of two parts of the infinitive verb (to and paint for instance), separated by a word or series of words, such as in: “to masterfully and swiftly paint.” Figuratively speaking, it’s precisely these hidden spaces within the act of painting, the unspoken in-betweens, which Mull explores. The collective subconscious lies in the silences between pauses, the lapses of memory and overlapses of language.

Martin Mull’s public collections include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, The Whitney Museum of Art, and the Total Contemporary Art Museum, Seoul. He has appeared in countless films and television programs. He received his BFA and MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.