John Mulvany | Secure the Perimeter

  • Opening reception: Saturday, September 14, 7-10pm
  • Artist Talk: Sunday, October 6, 2pm
  • Exhibition dates: September 14 – October 20, 2019
John Mulvany
John Mulvany

John Mulvany

“The reason people were not looking was that they had never done so before. They had fallen into the habit of considering their universe to be boring—and their universe had duly fallen into line with their expectations” - Xavier de Maistre - The Art of Travel: Alain de Botton

“Mostly it is loss which teaches us the worth of things” - Arthur Schopenhauer

This show started out as an exhibition about my neighborhood in East Austin; an American neighborhood in the throes of metamorphosis and change. My initial intention was to use the neighborhood as an allegory for this particular point in our country’s history. Throughout the last two years in America there has been an acute sense of a convulsive national identity-crisis. The current social and political moment encapsulated by the Pandora’s Box opened by the 2016 election has made us wake up and pay attention like never before. Were we asleep? Maybe. We are certainly awake now. Our obsession is with the carnivalesque horror-show of our national politics when, what we really need to pay attention to is our community, our immediate environment and our immediate moment. It seems impossible to be a thinking, engaged artist without grappling with the current moment. The anxiety about the news cycle amplifies both our appreciation for the immediate beauty of our environment and the sense that we might have screwed it all up already. The schizophrenia of intense appreciation and regret. Much of contemporary life is played out through our screens, scrolled through with compulsive anxiety and impatience. Art in general and painting particularly invites us to look slowly, to engage fully with our minds and our hearts.

Everything in life is present in the neighborhood. If you are inclined to walk around with your eyes and senses open, you notice things you might otherwise miss. A dead grackle in the road, the unkempt beauty of east-side Austin backyards, the violent magenta-pink veil of cherry blossom enveloping a vacant house, a cockroach carried away by ants. This exhibition is an invitation to look closer. The neighborhood, like the natural world, is in a constant state of creation, transformation and decay.

Midway through the production of this body of work my mother died. I was away from my home in Austin for more than two months to help care for her in her last weeks and days. When I returned to my studio in Austin, I was struck by how the themes in my work had taken on new layers of meaning. The paintings of dead birds, vacant houses in various states of reclamation by nature, cycles of life, the passing of time, all were present in the work before my mother died but now newly present in a more visceral way. I am reminded of how art’s function and meaning can shift and change not just in the artist but in the viewer too.