Toying with horror, but relying mostly on witty articulations of the abject and the grotesque, Bridget Mullen positions herself at a very strange crossroads. Her contorted portraits and disjointed tableaux lie between the crisp geometricity of Cyril Power, Jacques Villon, or Tamara de Lempicka and the shaggy, blunt, and gooey cartoons of Don Martin, R. Crumb, and, most significantly, Philip Guston. Her current exhibition at Nathalie Karg is titled Quitters, and many of the canvasses included here seem to depict singular figures in the depths of tearful despair or shame, hiding their faces behind elongated fingers and drippy or serpentine tendrils of hair. In the large piece Still Snakes (2022), the figure has been entirely supplanted by a mop of pink hair melting into copious blue tears, bordered on the left by a twisted, angsty hand. Just as often, though, Mullen’s paintings erupt into uncontrollable fits of replication—the brooms in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice come to mind—a kaleidoscopic doubling, tripling, and beyond. We see almost identical figures engaged in the same motion or activity, their indistinct or extra-convoluted and wrinkled features distorted into an unreadable and often unrecognizable maze of meticulously rendered shadow and line.
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