Jill Mulleady “Bend Towards the Sun”

Gladstone Gallery (Chelsea 21th Street)

poster for Jill Mulleady “Bend Towards the Sun”
[Image: Jill Mulleady "Pending" (2022) 48 3/8 x 104 3/4 in.]

This event has ended.

I’ve been thinking about your exhibition as a sort of mathematical or clinical experiment with the space of painting. Your operation was to take the number of canvases, the exact sizes and shapes provided by the external structure of Goya’s Black Paintings, and then fill them in with your own imagery. But you are also okay with losing it, letting it slip away again and become something new.

I was reading about this work, and the description itself is quite remarkable: the paintings were done directly on the walls of his home and after his death, they were transferred to canvas and essentially reconfigured into a different medium. After the demolition of the house and the relocation of the paintings to the Prado, even if most of the original murals have suffered extensive losses the emotional force that produced those paintings persists untouched. I see in this work the power to resist time and carry life in the same way that a black hole or stardust does.

Rather than remaking this missing architecture or source into his paintings imaginary, you extract their formats and reactivate them in a post-industrial exhibition space in New York. I understand that you absolutely disregarded their narrative content as if the power they bear could somehow transcend stories? As if stories were just provisional content and it’s the vessel that counts, that carries. But can you detach one from another? Probably not, but you are trying to create some friction and make them crack. Tapping into the intimate connection between the external structure of the physical world and its inner psychological representation.

A few of your canvases depict scenes with young women in erotically tense entanglements, sometimes with off-screen predators, or else lovingly preying upon each other. It’s in this vampiric attraction of predator and prey, and in the combination of psychically charged interiors with ravaged CinemaScopic landscapes, that you suggest another sort of architecture: a dangerously complex space of collapsing or shifting walls, where the boundary separating inside and outside is always on the point of dissolving. Private interiors are punctured by blaring, almost bloody views of the city below. Nature is invaded by robotic human hunters. There’s a wild, territorial battle of swans against swans. An open corpse with its organs exposed. Meanwhile, girls dare each other with new extremes of physical and emotional vulnerability, sometimes locking eyes with the viewer. Throughout, the border between inner psychic space and the exterior world – Earth’s body – remains charged and fragile, open to the violation. We sense a secret joy in this boundary violence, which is also a turned-on point of contact with the other. And then your title seems to suggest submission to the sun, which is either a life-giving or a deadly, overpowering force – actually both at once.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Goya was deaf when he moved into a house that was already called The House of the Deaf Man, as it seems that silence was already a crucial dimension of the space of this work. Silence unfolds its own kind of space. It’s also a way of communicating – darkly and directly – when the social contract fails. There’s a feeling that the bodies in your works are experiencing the beyond of words, the silent cracks from the frictions between joy and terror, physical space and inner representation. Cracks that come and go, appear and disappear like a beam of a lighthouse.



from September 15, 2022 to October 22, 2022

Opening Reception on 2022-09-15 from 18:00 to 20:00


Jill Mulleady

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