Emily Mullin on creating ceramic sculptures with her husband
Teaming up with her husband for a new show “Get a Room”, ceramic artist and sculptor Emily Mullin celebrates collage, collaboration and the beauty of imperfection
While many couples would countersign how the pandemic has tested the limits of their relationship, Brooklyn-based ceramicist and sculptor Emily Mullin has instead chosen to work with her husband, Tony Mullin, to produce her latest body of work, at on view until May 8 at the Jack Hanley Gallery in Manhattan. Titled “Get a Room,” Mullin’s second solo exhibition in the space blurs the lines between sculpture, painting, and collage, with Mullin creating not only the vessels on display, but also the wall reliefs and freestanding sculptural exhibits that frame each room. .
“The title of the show is a cheeky nod to the romance of [the collaborative] to treat [with my husband]. We share a studio and constantly copy each other’s palettes and shapes – is this a collaboration? I don’t know,” Mullin jokes. “We spent so much time looking at images of places we’ve traveled, pieces of art collections that we love, talking about architectural spaces, whether it’s gallery spaces or domestic spaces. These works allow us to imagine things that we would like to experience in a dream house that we do not own. “Get a Room” is also about how we display art and how we live with art.
Above: Portrait of Emily Mullin in the New York studio she shares with her husband, Tony. Below: Draining2021. © Emily Mullin Courtesy of the artist and Jack Hanley Gallery. Photography: Tony Mullin
Inspired by the exhibition designs of Italian architect Franco Albini and curator Caterina Marcenaro of the 1950s, whose emphasis on lightness and atmosphere redefined the way works were framed in architectural spaces, Mullin’s intentionally two-dimensional displays – large-scale CNC bent tables and plinths – are based on small, hand-cut paper models that she and her husband put together together.
“I love collage, Matisse and things that aren’t perfect”
“Sculptural steel displays are manufactured using generally very demanding industrial processes. It was fun throwing a spanner into the works and deliberately replicating raw, hand-cut and bent paper shapes using steel and a CNC press,” she explains. “I build the vessels, the same way by taking flat slabs of clay, cutting out shapes and putting various pieces together. I like to think of the push and pull of pictorial space in paintings when areas are flattened. I’m also interested in what happens when someone takes a photo of these dimensional works and how it all comes back to a 2D plane. I love collage, Matisse and things that aren’t perfect.’
Above: Installation view of “Get a Room” from the Jack Hanley Gallery in Manhattan. Below: Spring in Sardinia I (detail), 2021. © Emily and Tony Mullin. Courtesy of the artist and the Jack Hanley Gallery. Photography: Tony Mullin
By purposely retaining that paper-cut quality, the displays add a wry humor to Mullin’s decorative and sculptural ceramic vessels, which are generally inspired by “costumes and embellishment – Grace Jones’s wardrobe, the costumes of scene of Sonia Delaunay, the kimonos of the Edo period. , fashion illustrations by Erte, West Indian carnival costumes, pre-Columbian jewelry, Sardinian ceramics from the 50s…I could go on and on,” she says. “I like to keep the surface of the vessels connected to the patterns of abstract painting, whether with the wild, washed-out effects of a raku-fired glaze, or through repeated marks and patterns.”
Underscored by a color palette that draws inspiration from Mullin’s childhood in Los Angeles in the 90s, the show’s innate vibrancy is further enhanced by fresh floral arrangements that fill each vessel to literally bring the display to life.
“Theatricality and staging are important to me,” she concludes. “I like to think about the construction of images, framing devices and the language of adoration and desire. I have always thought of the works as altars that lift the vases and the floral elements that adorn them. There are all kinds of artistic, historical, and visual references, but fundamentally these pieces are a celebration of handmade objects and the natural world. §