LOS ANGELES — The act of birthing a child into the world elicits strong responses: incredulity, fear, joy, disgust. In a world full of differences — personal, social, and political — birth is one of the few truly universal experiences, and despite the awesome profundity of the event, we take it for granted, perhaps because it happens all the time. As you read this sentence, someone, somewhere is birthing a new human being into the world, and it is this act that Bridget Mullen’s solo exhibition at Shulamit Nazarian, aptly titled Birthday, bases itself on.
There is a tenderness and intimacy to the paintings, all made in 2021, that is not just an emotional projection on their subject matter. They are quite small, like picture portraits, each standing at 12 by nine inches, and are painted more delicately than much of Mullen’s other work, which tends to be populated by harsher lines and rougher forms. When seen together, the paintings are obviously anatomical: yonic amalgamations of thigh and buttock-like forms coalesce around smaller circles of vaginas and anuses, seen from both sexual and clinical points of view.
When taken apart, however, many of the paintings could just as easily be interpreted as a variety of other abstractions. The layered lines of “Birthday Series #22” could be an art deco building; the cartoonish forms of “Birthday Series #13” could be a face. This lack of literalness does nothing to weaken the paintings, instead opening them up to a variety of other interpretations not least of which is the relationship between the act of birth and the act of making art. Says Mullen in an interview with Maake Magazine, “I work free-associatively, without plans, to create paintings and sculptures.” In a sense, the style that Mullen paints with is similar to the uncertainty of giving birth to a child: you may have created it but eventually it takes on a life of its own. Part of both the artistic and parenting process is accepting the fact that, ultimately, you have very little control over where that life goes.
Bridget Mullen: Birthday continues at Shulamit Nazarian (616 North La Brea Avenue, Hancock Park, Los Angeles) through August 28.
In an open letter, European institutional leaders defend Manuel Borja-Villel, who has faced right-wing attacks for his progressive programming.
A new study posits that rising smog levels in 19th-century London and Paris likely played a role in blurring the lines of realism.
In Seongmin Ahn’s paintings, it is not our past we are looking at but our possible future.
Born in Shiraz, Sokhanvari fled Iran as a child a year before the Revolution and has devoted her artistic practice to the country she left behind.
Join the New-York Historical Society on February 10 for a virtual conversation about our changing relationship to the natural world with Julie Decker, John Grade, and LaMont Hamilton.
Stephen L. Starkman’s moving book about his encounter with mortality leaves a place for perseverance and hope.
“We clearly f-ed this one up,” said a Metropolitan Transit Authority rep, adding that the error in the artist’s last name is being fixed.
At least we won’t have to look at it on Earth.
From residencies, fellowships, and workshops to grants, open calls, and commissions, our monthly list of opportunities for artists, writers, and art workers.
Presented by Northwestern’s Block Museum and McCormick School of Engineering, this new exhibition seeks empathy at the boundaries of life. On view in Evanston, Illinois.
The statue could be a likeness of Trajan Decius, emperor of the Roman Empire from 249 to 251 CE.
The action could disrupt public access to the museum as workers campaign for higher wages and better labor conditions.