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Press Release

MOWA presents first major career retrospective of Milwaukee-based artist, Mark Mulhern

Media Coverage April 23, 2024

(MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN) – Museum of Wisconsin Art proudly presents Mark Mulhern: The Pleasure of Seeing, an exhibition displaying over 30 works by Milwaukee-based artist, Mark Mulhern. Spanning over 40 years of his career, this retrospective highlights the artist’s quiet and careful observations of life at home and abroad, which he distills into a sophisticated blend of figuration and abstraction. The exhibition opens on April 27.

Recognized for his use of vibrant palettes and unconventional compositions, Mark Mulhern: The Pleasure of Seeing showcases Mulhern’s commitment to abstraction, figuration, and color in a wholly personal way. Curated by Graeme Reid, MOWA’s Director of Exhibitions, this collection of works draws inspiration from Mulhern’s time abroad in France, where he observed bustling cafes and crowded flea markets, intent on capturing moments of human connection.

Mark Mulhern: The Pleasure of Seeing celebrates the life and career of one of Wisconsin’s most distinguished artists with a retrospective that is the largest exhibition of his work to date,” said Laurie Winters, James and Karen Hyde Executive Director. “The decision to undertake this project was an easy one for the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Mulhern’s work is strikingly original and today he is arguably producing his best paintings. An in-depth assessment of his long career was definitely in order.”

Born in Portage, Wisconsin, Mulhern studied at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee and at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He eventually traveled to Europe where he spent formative years studying printmaking. Influenced in Paris by late Impressionist painters like Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, his work is simultaneously narrative and semi-abstract.

 At 73, many of Mulhern’s recent compositions involve themes of celebration—gaily clad party-goers, decadent desserts, twinkling party decor—visual delights that are universal and essential parts of lived experience.

In addition to the exhibition, MOWA will host an Opening Party on Saturday, April 27 and an Artist Talk, led by Mulhern, on Saturday, May 4.

Mark Mulhern: The Pleasure of Seeing serves as a reminder of the intrinsic value of community, inviting viewers to embrace the pleasures found in shared experiences.


Mark Mulhern, Summer Gathering, 2021 (detail)