Artwork of the month March

Matt Mullican, Untitled (Roundhouse of the Arts), 1989/2001

Matt Mullican

* 1951 in Santa Monica, California

Untitled (Roundhouse of the Arts)

Frottage: acrylic and oil-based pencil on canvas, 5 parts

301.5 x 121 x 2.5cm each; total size 301.5 x 605 x 2.5cm

Purchased with funds of the Stiftung Freunde des Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein

In the large-format piece Untitled (Roundhouse of the Arts) Matt Mullican uses the motif of an industrial building from the 19th century. A Roundhouse is a civil engineering structure displaying characteristic features of early modernism, traditionally used for storing and servicing steam engines. The artist sees this red-tinted picture of a rotunda, a frequent theme in Mullican's work, as a metaphor of the human capacity for analytical thought and creative work. The railway tracks that converge at a central junction are reminiscent of the human nervous system, that transports and processes information in a complex manner. At another level of the image, in the top third of the piece, the artist places eight black-and-white icons, schematised depictions representing the fine arts – theatre, dance, music, literature, film, photography, painting and sculpture.

In his artistic oeuvre, Matt Mullican questions the constitution and mode of action of perception: how is our reality organised, how does our world become accessible? The unconscious, which the artist tries to tap into by means of trance, also plays a key role. In his studies, Mullican goes back to the idea of an encyclopaedic order, constructing with the aid of a colour and sign system an individual model that seeks to structure the inner relations and functions of the world and perception. A key characteristic for categorisation is his basic idea of "five worlds", to each of which he allocates a colour: the "world of physical elements" (green), the "world unframed" (blue), the "world framed" (yellow), the "world of language and signs" (black and white), and the "subjective world" (red). On this basis one can decode in Untitled (Roundhouse of the Arts) a link between the subjective – the human being's inner intellectual and creative activity – and the form of meaning represented by language.

Denise Rigaud

<b>Matt Mullican, Untitled (Roundhouse of the Arts), 1989/2001</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.