Liner Notes

Mark Mulherrin's Works and Days:
Beholder's Share

by Rich Remsberg

I don’t know much about the art world, but I know what irritates me: the noisy dishonesty, the smugness, willfully inscrutable artists pushing to see how much they can get away with and call it art.

But every once in a while in this po-mo stream we’re stuck in, you find an artist who’s doing it right, someone who’s making art that is genuinely expressive, made for people to connect with, and has something to say – or doesn’t and doesn’t try to. You find Mark Mulherrin – and it’s a deep pleasure when you do.

He’s a hell of a craftsman, works diligently in the studio, and knows an awful lot about art history.

Mulherrin’s stuff is funny. It sticks with you. I can’t look at a painting at a flea market now without seeing the UFOs that are supposed to be there.

Like the best practitioners of the form, he understands that the clever weirdness of Surrealism is fugitive; what lasts is mapping the landscapes of the subconscious. What works, what’s worthwhile, is the viable philosophy of abstract painting wedded to the emotional power of real imagery.

He lays his hands on all the cool junk that any experienced picker would pull out of the rubble, but he finds beauty in the useless, soulless crap, too. And in so doing, he gives it both a use and a soul. It’s a construction not meant to be directly representational but to trigger activity in the viewer’s mind. If it doesn’t work for you immediately, stick with it. It’s worth the effort.

And to Mark Mulherrin, I say to you what Kerouac told Robert Frank: “You got eyes.”

Like Frank, you provide an existential witness. But yours is not the cool observation of America’s street corners and cafes and highways and gas stations. Yours is some fucked-up abandoned thrift store on the edge of humanity’s shadow self, where Aeschylus and Anthony Braxton are hanging out in the parking lot because they’re not sure where else to go, and you sit down on the pavement to join them for a bottle of wine.

Except the wine was left behind a long time ago.

But thanks for still dreaming the drunkard’s dream.