-walk or proceed quickly and with determination
-the progress of something abstract moving inexorably onward
-a frontier or border area between two territories
-wander at random
-a circuitous journey
-a winding curve, a bend in a river or path
We normally think of these words as meaning very different things, even as implying different states of mind. One can’t march and meander at the same time, can they? Wouldn’t that create some sort of cognitive dissonance? Antone Könst and Bridget Mullen embrace that dissonance, creating works that reject singular definition and oscillate between various dualities, at once naive and knowing, whimsical and rigorous, familiar and strange.
Critical for both artists is a shifting focus between relatable figurative motifs and more internal formal investigations. Iconography is central to both artists’ work, their imagery evoking a range of visual precedent from modern cartoons to symbols originating from ancient cultures. However, the emphasis can change from section to section and moment to moment; bipolarity is a shared trait throughout the exhibition.
In Mullen’s highly material paintings, compositions are assembled through multiple layers of abstract components, establishing a visual syntax and a sense of integration from otherwise disparate elements. The sequencing of Mullen’s process is purposely varied from work to work—backgrounds may be painted first, last, or somewhere in between—lending a sense of psychic disorder and undermining a linear experience of time. Mullen’s subjects—which appear doll-like, dog-like, womanly, androgynous, vacant, as cartoons that run off cliffs—are often interpretations of the artist herself, and are repeated as if traversing boundless voids. The collective identity of Mullen’s characters, and by extension the identity of the artist, becomes more fully manifested with each additional iteration.
If Mullen’s repetitious figures portray some kind of existential drama, the narrative content of Könst’s subject-motifs is less clear. Könst is almost anti-definitive—not ambiguous, but rather with the belief that once an object is emptied it can become a vessel for something more concrete. As such, Könst’s figures seem disembodied at times, like armatures for color and metaphor; a cat’s paw is a flat black notation, a horse’s eye is a crescent moon. Recognizable forms are thus subsumed into the painting’s compositional framework rather than existing as independent actors with stories to tell. Through his conceptual practice, and by reworking figures over many rounds of revision, Könst pushes meaning further from the actual image he depicts, underlining the discord between the sign and its purported significance.
In both artists’ work, there is a notable relationship between the painted subject and the edges of the painting itself. By respecting or ignoring these boundaries, Könst and Mullen each consider the limits of a painting as a pictorial stage. Könst’s figures always manage to fit within the rectangle—their bodies crouch, legs bend, arms cross, and toes curl to avoid leaving the frame. In Mullen’s compositions, on the other hand, figures routinely surpass the perimeter, intimating a continued presence beyond the literal art object. For both artists, these constraints are treated more as arbitrary suggestions than as hard and fast rules, as borders across which to pose different questions.
While Könst and Mullen both address issues inherent to painting, their link is not a purely formal one. Their shared approach is necessarily both structured and open-ended, direct and roundabout. For Könst and Mullen, language and form can be taken at face value, but are just as easily doubted and stripped of their usual substance, as the truth may lie outside convention.
Adam Yokell, March, 2017
Antone Könst (b. 1987, New Haven, CT; lives and works Brooklyn, NY) holds an MFA from Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT, and a BFA from CalArts, Valencia, CA, and was the 2014–15 Harriet Hale Woolley Fellow at the Fondation des Etats Unis, Paris, FR. Könst’s work has been exhibited at venues including Abel Baker Contemporary, Portland, ME; Galerie Jeanroch Dard, Brussels, BE; and Sunday Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and will be the subject of a forthcoming solo exhibition at Radical Abacus, Santa Fe, NM. Könst is a lecturer at Brooklyn College and a founding member of the Virtual Dream Center.
Bridget Mullen (b. 1976, Winona, MN) holds a BAE from Drake University, Des Moines, IA, and an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA. Mullen’s work has been exhibited at venues including Satellite Contemporary, Las Vegas, NV; Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, NM; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA; Parlour Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; and Samson Projects, Boston, MA. Mullen has been an artist in residence at multiple juried residencies including the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, where she was also a second year fellow; Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, ME; The Lighthouse Works, Fishers Island, NY; and Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY, among others; and is a forthcoming artist in residence at the Jan Van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, NED.
For more information, please contact Adam Yokell at firstname.lastname@example.org.