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James McMullan on the grid
James McMullan Collection Box 1 Folder 6: illustration for unknown publication. (Enlarge)
January 19, 2014

James McMullan on the grid

I’m not sure there’s a greater significance to James McMullan’s use of grids, but I noticed them in sufficient number to start thinking about why they might have appealed to him. The grids impose order, but I’ve always thought of McMullan’s work as deceptively methodical. He often creates works based on staged photographs, and at first glance, the drawings can appear to be a wholly faithful representation. A close look, however, reveals something brooding and wistful, maybe dangerous. The grids add a sense of being confined and a longing for escape (intentional or not).

A watercolor illustration of a man from the chest up in a business suite in they sky looking straight ahead. Below him are several palm trees and a still ocean. On the shore is a tiny man looking at the horizon.  The top half of the paper is gridded and the lower half are horizontal line whose spacing becomes narrower and narrower as it reaches the horizon of the ocean. The business man and sky are made of light color you would see at sunset; lilac, sky blue, dusk pink. The palm trees and tiny are dark evergreen.

James McMullan Collection Box 1 Folder 6: illustration for unknown publication.

A water color illustration of a small city whose blue sky fades into a bright red color, taking up most of the page. Within the red backgrounds are tiny colorful rectangular illustrations of random people doing ordinary things, most are standing in front of a car or building. The ciry below is made of dull grey, blue, white and green colors. At the bottom is a an illustration which looks like a sepia photo of the town from the past.

James McMullan Collection Box 2 Folder 4: original art for unknown publication.

An Illustration for a book jacket. The illustration is a long metal object with a hole in the middle. Above it is a shiny piston. Behind the piston is the title of the book, "Four-Stroke" in big red bolded font, it's slanted. Next to it in a thin grey font is, "A Novel By Don Mitchell". The background is eggshell white, with a thin red grid lines on it.

James McMullan Collection Box 2 Folder 10: Four-Stroke book jacket, 1974.

Some abstracted versions of the grid:

An illustration on a paper booklet. Illustration is on the bottom of the booklet's cover in a thick black square background. It's a yellow ball with a single thick blue stripe with white stars in mid air in an empty bright green field of grass with a few trees in the far distance. The illustration has a collage look to it, with the illustration broken into small squares that are put to together.

James McMullan Collection Box 2 Folder 1: Cover for Push Pin Graphic, “Notorious Subjects as Children,” No. 47, 1964.

A watercolor illustration of a dull green Volkswagen Beetle car driving ahead with a boy looking back, towards us. The car is on a red road and in front of the car it has images of several different locations, the first image is a sky split in two, the second is a suburban road with houses image that is split in two, the third is an image split in two, the left is a blue sky with a cloud and the right is a sunset, the fourth is a blue sky split in two.

James McMullan Collection Box 1 Folder 6: illustration for unknown publication.

This post also appears on our Picturebox blog.