Stephen Mueller “A Selection of Paintings, 1988 – 2011”

Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.

poster for Stephen Mueller “A Selection of Paintings, 1988 – 2011”
[Image: Stephen Mueller "Saint Cicada" (1988)]

This event has ended.

This is the third exhibition of Stephen Mueller’s work at Lennon,
Weinberg. The first took place in 2010, a show of works all
painted in a single year. After his death in 2011, we organized a
second exhibition of late work from a span of five years that
provided an opportunity to reveal some of his final paintings. It
now seems appropriate to look at work from a wider time frame.
The show begins with Saint Cicada, 1988. It was first shown at
Annina Nosei Gallery and is a classic example from the period that
earned Mueller a reputation as one of America’s best young
abstract painters and inclusion in a memorably strong Whitney
Biennial the previous year. The painting is perfectly in tune with
the extravagantly painterly ethos of the Neo-Expressionist decade
but also finds Mueller right at the cusp of changes that
substantially redefined his work. It contains, in somewhat
embryonic form, many of the compositional elements that appear
in his work of the following years, purified, clarified and serene.
It’s an interesting title, Saint Cicada. It speaks to the ecstasies,
torments, miracles and martyrdoms associated with saints and the
ways that those states have been conjured in some of the most
hallucinogenic and rapturous paintings in art history. It also alludes
to rebirth, to passage from dark enclosure to the warmth of light,
and the gorgeousness of the natural world. Morning, this Evening,
1990, a minimalistic and adumbral painting, allows the tiny
intrusions of geometry among the muscular gestures of Saint
Cicada a more prominent role and is a quietly meditative tour de

Stephen Mueller had a long-standing interest in Buddhist and
Tantric art that was heightened by a large exhibition that took
place in New York in 1991, “Wisdom and Compassion: The
Sacred Art of Tibet” at the IBM Gallery. Klaus Kertess wrote this
about Mueller’s recent work in a 1993 article in Artforum
magazine, “His vividly hued elliptical and circular shapes hover
and buzz in shimmering mists; their manner, while less
regimented, recalls the multiples of Buddha’s beatific chubbiness
that float so frontally on the flat and floreate ground of many
Tibetan tanka paintings. Like those of Tibetan painters, Mueller’s
animated apparitions of the last two years are at once stunningly
present and utterly elusive – by turns cosmic, comic, mystic, and

During the early to mid-1990s, while the spotlight of the art world
turned toward societal and conceptual issues, Mueller made
paintings that elaborated a celestial universe of drifting
atmospheres and hard-edged shapes, playing with arrangements of
transparencies and opacities that evidenced his increasing interest
in the medium of watercolor. There is a grace and wonder in the
work of this particular period that warrants a deeper look in an
exhibition on its own. It is unmistakable that this is the era in
which his mature style, for lack of a better word, came into being.
From this time on, circles, ovals, plaids, stripes, Tantric shapes,
fans, auras and other optical flourishes traverse radiant fields with
an insouciant impetuosity. Navigator, 2007, a painting that features
a dial-like form abreast of overlapping circular bands, suggests one
who has a vision of the way forward. The last work in the show,
Owen, 2011, named for a friend who died not long before Stephen
himself, is celebratory in regard to our ultimate destination. That
Stephen Mueller’s own journey was cut short too soon at the age of
sixty-three should not diminish our enjoyment of the legacy of a
singularly enlightened painter, one who was indeed among the best
of his generation.

Stephen Mueller (1947-2011) was born in Norfolk, Virginia and
grew up in Dallas, Texas. He received his BFA at the University of
Texas, Austin and his MA from Bennington College. He has
exhibited with Texas Gallery in Houston since 1974 and was
represented in New York by Tibor de Nagy, Annina Nosei, and
Bill Maynes between 1975 and 2001. His work has been exhibited
in London at Fabian Carlsson, in Los Angeles at Daniel Weinberg,
at Galerie Specht in Basel and more recently at Nature Morte in
Berlin, Galeria Otto Zoo in Milan and Cardwell-Jimmerson in
Culver City. Lennon, Weinberg has exhibited his work in New
York since 2007 and presented solo exhibitions in 2010 and 2012.
Mueller was included in Whitney Biennial exhibitions in 1987 and
in 1995. An exhibition of a series of Mandala paintings took place
at Art/Omi in Ghent, New York in 2010. His works are included in
many museum collections including the Museum of Fine Arts in
Houston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn
Museum, the High Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Portland
Art Museum, the Joslyn Art Museum, the Birmingham Museum of
Art, the Munson Williams Proctor Museum of Art and the Blanton
Museum of Art.

He received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation,
the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the New York Foundation for the
Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Gottlieb
Foundation. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 2000 and
was a regular contributor to Art in America and Artcritical.



from February 28, 2015 to April 11, 2015


Stephen Mueller

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