Marlon Mullen

Marlon Mullen’s (b. 1963) kaleidoscopic paintings feature interlocking shapes of tactile paint that reference images found in art magazines from the library at NIAD Art Center. A strong formalist, Mullen paints precise shapes in bold swirls of vivid colors, creating topographical pools of paint and confident graphic lines that delineate forms that had formerly served to make an image. As he distills and reconstructs his references, the paintings come to withhold what one might consider vital information, prioritizing previously minor or overlooked details. 

With his uniquely rigorous manner of organizing the picture plane, Mullen upsets the expected hierarchy of elements in an image. Shadows move out from the background into the fore, stripes of a magazine barcode enlarge to become graphic scaffolding that provide movement and depth, while text is abstracted into imagery that performs an aesthetic or poetic function. On Mullen’s surfaces, the components are liberated from any purpose other than generating composition, gesture, and rhythm. Amidst these radical transmutations, the artist creates his own idiosyncratic universe that toggles gloriously between representation and abstraction. 

Mullen was born in Richmond, California. He has had solo exhibitions at JTT, NY, Atlanta Contemporary, GA and White Columns, NY. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including the 2019 SECA Art Award exhibition, SFMOMA; the Whitney Biennial 2019; Way Bay 2 and Create, BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CA; Under Another Name, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY. Mullen received the 2014 Wynn Newhouse Award. His work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art, both New York, NY; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL; and the Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR. Marlon Mullen is represented exclusively by Adams and Ollman in Oregon. He has worked at NIAD since 1985.

exhibition history


Into the Brightness: Artists from Creativity Explored, Creative Growth & NIAD // Oakland Museum of California // May 2023

I have done it again./One year in every ten/I manage it—— // Adams and Ollman, Portland // February 2023

Adams and Ollman Booth // Felix Art Fair, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Los Angeles // February 2023

Death of an Outsider // Shrine, Los Angeles // February 2023

Marlon Mullen // JTT Gallery, New York // January 2023

RISD Manual 17: “Variance” // October 2022

WIN WIN 10 Live Auction Sneak Preview // NIAD Online Exhibition // March 2022

Marlon Mullen, Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong//2021

The Art Of Image Critique // Frans Hal Museum Netherlands 2020

Marlon Mullen // Adams And Ollman Portland, Oregon 2020

SECA Art Award Exhibition // SFMOMA San Francisco 2019

Whitney Biennial // Whitney Museum Of American Art New York 2019

CE x CG X NIAD // Minnesota Street Projects San Francisco 2019 

Marlon Mullen: 2017 – 2018 // JTT New York 2019

Guerneville // organized By Gerasimos Floratos and Ross Simonini NIAD Art Center October 2018

Way Bay 2 // Berkeley Art Museum 2018

Dino Matt And Marlon Mullen // Adams And Ollman Portland, Oregon 2018

Affinity // organized by Tim Buckwalter Museum of Northern California Art Chico 2017

Trout Fishing In America // City Limits Gallery Oakland 2017

Summer Exhibition // Sorry, We’re Closed Brussels 2017

Marlon Mullen: P // organized by John Zurier NIAD Art Center 2017

Marlon Mullen // JTT New York 2017

Creature Feature // organized by John Casey NIAD Art Center 2017

Fonds Duvel-Moortgat // organized by MADmusée, Théâtre de Liège, Liège Belgium 2016

Outside // curated by Matthew Higgs Karma Amangasett New York 2016

Variations On a Theme // organized by Robert Wuilfe NIAD Art Center 2016

Looking Back, The 10th White Columns Annual // White Columns New York 2016

Celebrating A Vision: Art & Disability // SFO Terminal Three 2016

Marlon Mullen // Jack Fischer Gallery San Francisco 2016

Marlon Mullen // Adams And Ollman Portland, Oregon 2016

Welcome To My World // organized by Chris Ashley NIAD Art Center 2015

Marlon Mullen //Contemporary Art Center Atlanta 2015

Marlon Mullen // JTT New York 2015

Under Another Name // organized by Thomas J. Lax Studio Museum Of Harlem 2014

Ebony + Ivory // organized by Katie Johnson NIAD Art Center 2014

Check Your Head: Some Figurative Work NIAD Art Center 2013

Undercover Geniuses // organized by Jan Moore Petaluma Arts Center 2013

Mud, Honey // NIAD Art Center 2013

MHMMML // International Art Objects Los Angeles 2013

Color and Form  // Jack Fischer Gallery San Francisco  2013

Mayor Tom Butt Selects The Art Of NIAD// Richmond Mayor’s Suite Richmond 2016

Breaking Barriers // organized by Patricia Watts Marin Community Foundation Novato 2013

Marlon Mullen  // White Columns New York 2012

After Shelley Duvall ’72 // Maccarone New York 2011

Create // Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley 2011; Canton Gallery, Worcester 2012; Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton 2013; Longwood Center for the Visual Arts Farmville 2013; and Washington State University, Museum of Art Pullman 2014

corporate and public collections

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley California

Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

MADMusée, Belgium

Recent Press

Going On About Town, The New Yorker, February 2023 By Johanna Fateman

Vulture Art Review, New York Magazine, February 9, 2023 By Jerry Saltz, New York’s Senior Art Critic

Art Observed February 6, 2023 By D. Creahan

New York Art Tours February 3, 2023 By Staff

The Brooklyn Rail  February 2023 By Jacob Brooks

8 Must-See Gallery Solo Shows in February“. Galerie Magazine, February 2023

artnet news: I’m the Kind of Guy Who Wants to Buy Everything (February 14, 2020)

Marlon Mullen“. Artforum, January 2023

Disparate Minds: Marlon Mullen’s Monumental Year (January 22, 2020

San Francisco Examiner: Bold New Work From SECA Award Winners (November 26, 2019)

KQED Arts: In a Future-Oriented SECA Show, East Bay Artists Shine (November 21, 2019)

Juxtapoz Magazine: SECA Art Award Recipients Emerge @ SFMOMA (November 19, 2019)

San Francisco Chronicle: Visual Intelligence Trumps Theory: SFMOMA’s 2019 SECA Exhibition (November 13, 2019)

Culture Vulture: SFMOMA’s 2019 SECA Award (November 11, 2019)

San Francisco Chronicle: True Selves (June 5, 2019)

Washington Post: The Whitney Biennial Presents The Best New Artists In The Country — And Lots Of Fluff (May 18, 2019)

Time Out: The Five Must-See Artworks At This Year’s Whitney Biennial (May 14, 2019)

Vulture: The New Whitney Biennial Made Me See Art History in a New Way (May 14, 2019)

The Art Newspaper: Whitney Biennial Aims To Focus On Artists But—As Protests Mount—It Cannot Escape Politics (May 13, 2019)

San Francisco Chronicle: Trio of Bay Area Artists Named SFMOMA’s 2019 SECA Award Winner (April 4, 2019)

Artforum: Marlon Mullen JTT (April 2019)

Disparate Minds: Marlon Mullen and Helen Rae (February 2019)

ARTnews: Pictures At An Exhibition (January 25, 2019)

artnet: Editors’ Picks: 15 Things Not To Miss In New York’s Art World This Week (January 7, 2019)
Time Out New York: Marlon Mullen (January 7, 2019)

San Francisco Chronicle: SFMOMA Announces 2019 Finalists For Prestigious SECA Award ( December 14, 2018)

ARTnews: Here’s a Look At What The Whitney Museum Has Acquired Over The Past Year (September 2018)
The Oregonian: 10 Portland Art Exhibitions To Brighten Your Winter (January 4, 2018)

Preview The 2017 Seattle Art Fair (August 2017)

Disparate Minds: Marlon Mullen at JTT (May 2017)

TimeOut: The top Five New York Art Shows This Week (April 24, 2017)

Disparate Minds: Masters and Emerging Artists at the Outsider Art Fair (February 2016)

ARTnews: Boundaries Blur At The Outsider Art Fair, Which Has Newfound Attention, Pricey Dargers, And Quite A Bit More (January 2016)

Hyperallergic: Outsider Art Fair Preview: Discoveries, Surprises And An Expanded Vision (January 2016)

Observer: The Top 10 NYC Gallery Shows of 2015 (January 2016)

Burnaway: Brut Force: Marlon Mullen at the Contemporary (October 2015)

ARTnews: The Error Of Margins (October 2015)

Arts ATL: Review: Diverse solo shows at Atlanta Contemporary suggest new curator’s interests (September 2015)

Artspace: Independent’s Matthew Higgs on Finding Space in the Market for Underdogs (March 2015)

Frieze Magazine: MHMMML (2013, May)

San Francisco Chronicle: NIAD Art Center’s Gifts Of Artistic Ability (2012, December)

Contra Costa Times: Richmond’s NIAD Makes Art Affordable And Accessible (2012, November)

Worcester Telegram & Gazette: Holy Cross Exhibit Displays Works Of Artists With Disabilities (2012, November)

MetroWest Daily News: Utterly Honest Art At Holy Cross In Worcester (2012, October)

Exhibition A: Incredible Marlon Mullen Show At White Columns (2012, March)


SECA Art Award (2019)

Wyn Newhouse Award (2014)