Matt Mullican

Biography of Matt Mullican

From the start of his career, Matt Mullican (born 1951 in Santa Monica, US) has produced a focused body of work founded on an interest in notions of reality and perception. In a continuous effort to the understand and structure the world we inhabit, he has developed, over his 40-year career, a pioneering artistic approach and a complex lexicon. He has used hypnosis in his work since the early 1970s in order to blur the boundaries between performance and drawing and to allow himself as artist to become more in tune with his deeper subconscious. It is through Matt Mullican’s experiments with hypnosis that he has created his unique visual language that models the world through five levels.


Matt Mullican calls this model “the theory of the five worlds.” Simultaneously personal and generic, it is a rich vocabulary that uses color as the organizing principle. According to the theory, red means subjective, black represents language or sign, yellow symbolizes the world framed (the arts) as opposed to blue, which is the world unframed (unconscious), and finally green is symbolic of the elements. His five worlds model is used in a diverse range of media including flags, drawings, videos and prints. Underlying all of Matt Mullican’s work is his artistic concept encompassing—in a literal sense—a worldview that is born from his use of hypnosis. Every work contains a complex iconography that organizes our world and describes its systems and relationships while also revealing the inner depths of the artist’s mind.


Matt Mullican was a student of conceptual artist John Baldessari when he attended the Californian Institute of the Arts but has always departed from the austerity of the conceptual movement and resisted traditional categorization. Nationally and internationally renowned, he has exhibited at prestigious institutions worldwide, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in Berlin, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan. 

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