Simon Mullan: Die Fläche
April 29 – June 30 2016
By GRACIE LINDEN, JUN. 2016
PM/AM’s current exhibition Die Fläche features works by the German artist Simon Mullan. Die Fläche translates roughly to "the surface" and that is what we are here to look at, facades and what lies beneath.
Mullan is fascinated by subculture, industrialization and construction, and this exhibition uses these as both inspiration and source material. In the series of works Popularis, Mullan has taken bathroom tiles and turned them into wall art. With irregular patterns and brightly colored grout, these deceptively simple compositions allude to Mondrian’s De Stijl paintings. This gridded motif is found throughout the exhibition. In Alpha Series, Mullan deconstructs nylon bomber jackets to make squares forming patchwork quilts. The seams are so tightly sewn the quilts appear seconds from bursting. And the same irregular lattice is found in the freestanding metal screen-like sculptures "Ekaterina" (2016), "Josephine" (2016), and "Edith" (2016). While partitions obscure sight, these make visible the hidden.
Two video works also are on view. In the black and white video "A: Coffee or Tea Darling? B: Cocoa You Cunt," a builder sporting a rolled-up leather jacket effortlessly juggles bricks; loud screeches can be heard in the background. Here, Mullan draws on his interest in building and the history of builders — his own family’s biography. "Teaser," Mullan's other viewable film, feels like the least coherent work in the exhibition. Wiktor, a Swedish club-goer, dances in slow motion revolving around a poll. Mullan filmed Wiktor for hours, only to reduce the footage to a forty-five second clip.
For art ostensibly interrogating subculture, PM/AM is the perfect venue. The door is relatively unmarked and the gallery itself is subterranean, dark, and beyond the reach of the street. Like the location itself, Mullan’s interest in totems of counterculture and the systems of building and mechanization is not easily decipherable. The encoded histories are well concealed behind the shiny metallic-like surfaces.
The most interesting element of the artwork is the duality of masculine and feminine at play. While metalwork and building are traditionally masculine modes of making, Mullan also sews quilts, a practice coded as feminine. Indeed, his exploration of interiority — in both the bathroom space as well as in Naked Bomber Jackets, a second set of undone bomber jackets whose exterior layer has been skinned off — seems to probe at a feminine interiority. These two approaches feel almost oppositional, in which a hyper-masculinity conceals an inner femininity. "Teaser" is a good example of this contrast: Wiktor’s stance and musculature is aggressive, but his dancing around a pole makes overt reference to poll dancers, a conventionally female occupation and dance reserved for women. It is unclear whether or not this dichotomy — maleness and femaleness — is intentional, but it gives depth to an exhibition that might have otherwise been too interested in the surface. WM