Paul Mellon Gallery 2008


Martin Mugar makes difficult paintings. He doesn't ask a lot of the viewer, but what he does ask doesn't come easy. Of course if you are attracted to their physical nature, their color, their texture, to the way they are made, then this isn't a problem; you're in. But if you're not in, if you're not inclined toward the way they posture themselves, the way they attempt to tempt you, yes, if you're not seduced by the candy-colored, taffy pulling fact of them, then you aren't going to get past that, and you will never be in.

Martin Mugar's paintings are not about the candy-colored taffy pull. That is the road to what his paintings are about. It is the candy-colored taffy pull road. It is how he gets there, not where he goes, or where he is going; and it is the road to where the work takes us; but...but it is not our destination.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Either you go or you don't go. If all you've gotten from Martin Mugar's paintings is the candy-colored taffy pull, then you haven't gone. Period. If that's all you got then you didn't get anything. If that's all you saw, then you didn't see jack.

So what is it that is going on? What is it that is so difficult? Well, it's easy; Martin Mugar wants us to listen. Listen as in look. Look and listen. For the record, this is all anyone wants, but Mugar demands that we listen harder because his work is the sound of a butterfly flapping its wings. It is the sound of a flower petal falling. It is the sound of the tide coming in. These are sounds nobody hears. We are all deaf from the noise.

Don't think that this is oooouuu...about subtlety. That is the common misconception. Quiet and subtle are not always the same. This is not a value war. This is about perception in the larger sense. Artists challenge perception; their own and everyone else's. Martin Mugar is in love with the quiet. It is why he lives in New Hampshire instead of New York. It is why he likes to sail. It is why he likes to paint. He wants us to listen to his paintings and he makes it hard if all we're going to see is candy-colored taffy pulls. We can pull all we like. Not going to happen. He says he just wants the viewer to  be patient, but what that really means is for the viewer to give him the time of day, and then he wants them to listen to his paintings the way he likes to listen to the wind filling his sails. He is gambling that if and when we do listen, his paintings will carry across the water and fill our sails as well.