Lee Mullican was as a member of the Dynaton movement, a group of artists, named after the Greek word for “the possible,” that acted as a bridge between the European Surrealist and American Abstract Expressionist schools. The Dynaton collective, while short-lived, is remembered for its landmark exhibition in 1951 at the San Francisco Museum of Art.
Lee Mullican was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma. His father was a school teacher and business man and his mother was an amateur artist. In 1937, Mullican left Chickasha for Abilene, Texas where he attended Abilene Christian College. From 1939 to 1941 he attended the University of Oklahoma before completing his final year of college at the Kansas City Art Institute from which he graduated in 1942. He was then drafted into the army completing three years of service in California, the South Pacific and Japan serving as a topographer. After the war, Mullican relocated to the Bay Area and settled into the art and literary community meeting English surrealist Gordon Onslow-Ford, painter Wolfgang Paalen and architect Eric Mendelsohn. His first one-man show was at the San Francisco Art Museum in 1949. In 1951 Mullican moved to Los Angeles with Luchita Hurtado (Paalen’s former wife). In 1959-1960 he and his family spent a year in Rome on a Guggenheim award he received. He returned from the trip taking a teaching position at the Universtiy of California, Los Angeles where he worked for several years.
Today, Mullican’s works are included in the permanent collections the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, among others. His work was also included in the Getty Museum’s 2011 Pacific Standard Time exhibition.