Carter Mull’s fourth solo exhibition at Marc Foxx is swish, elegant and exceedingly clever. His shows used to be awash with photocopies plastering the ceiling and mylar covering the floor, and he has been referred to as a photographer and video artist, with painting being referenced only as an art-historical stumbling block. The concept of painting can be seen here in photographs and newsprint copy embedded in larger works. In one example, a photo of a beauty in front of a Pollock refers to problems of price versus worth or the idea of “creative genius” — issues that every artist has had to face, or desperately ignore, from their log cabin in the woods. In this exhibition the endlessly reproducible image, with its accompanying psychic noise and physical detritus, has become streamlined.
Mull has trimmed and condensed. In the wall pieces he takes a photograph of an area of his studio, prints it, paints it, re-scans it, then tweaks it in the computer, finally printing a large-format copy of the image. In most of these he adds, with the rectangular finality of a tombstone, a photograph of an ill-fated and iconic celebrity. A-is-for Amy Winehouse, M-is for Michael Jackson. Pantone-bright cursive letters perform a jumbled spelling-out of the alphabet, or numbers jump around the paper to make a clock ticking out a memorial. Mull layers the images in his work in a push and pull that can lead to dynamic final works somewhat reminiscent of ’80s and ’90s album covers, or even Nam June Paik’s Video Synthesizers. There is also a heady whiff of the post-Boy-George London scene, with a knowing wink and flip of the hair. It can be disconcerting when the name “Jackson Pollock” jumps out at you from one work, and on the adjacent wall is an image of a painted photograph of a floor. The reading and connection between the works may seem too easy, but Mull’s vision of the dance of death looks like a disco.