Lee Mullican. This Marvelous Tool

Lee Mullican at his studio in Venice, California, ca. 1950. Courtesy of Betsy Drake and the Estate of Lee Mullican. Filmed by Betsy Drake.

When Lee Mullican found himself one day without a paintbrush, he reached instead for a printer’s knife. At the time he was staying with Jack Stauffacher, a printer Mullican had met while in the Army who ran the Greenwood Press in San Francisco. Borrowing Stauffacher’s “marvelous tool”1—a knife with a flexible blade used to apply ink to rollers—Mullican developed a distinguished approach to markmaking by adapting the blade’s square tip to apply and score paint, creating abstract forms from linear dashes that resemble geometric glyphs or stitches in textiles.

  1. Jack Stauffacher, in Lee Mullican: Paintings 1952–1968 (San Francisco: John Berggruen Gallery, 2007), 4. ↩︎