Mullen is known for large acrylic paintings, some as wide as fifteen feet. His 1983 8.5-by-12-foot painting Women in the Country (Series 2, No. 5) is part of the James C. Moore, Jr., Collection of the Work of Philip Mullen, which includes most of the 161 Mullen works owned by the University of South Carolina. Since 1990, twenty of his paintings have been on permanent display at the Koger Center in Columbia, SC.
Blurring the line between the physical and spiritual worlds, Mullen’s work has been described by artist Don Zurlo as “very physical, even sensual in the use of color and texture” to draw viewers “into the mystical elements of the works.” By manipulating tactile surfaces and simple forms on a flat plane, Mullen depicts “infinite layers of human experience.”
“Fluid, complex, abstract, yet rooted in the world of things experienced in a tactile way, Mullen’s paintings are both carefully thought out and joyously carefree . . . beguiling the viewer to “work” at appreciating them,” says independent writer and David Findlay Gallery staff member Andy Reed of New York.
The 2020 recipient of the Elizabeth O’Neil Verner lifetime achievement award, Mullen began teaching at the University of South Carolina in 1969 and was named a distinguished professor emeritus in 2000.
Since the 1970s, Mullen’s works have appeared in numerous exhibitions at galleries and museums across the US, including the Findlay Galleries on Madison Avenue in New York City, the Dubins Gallery in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Malton Gallery in Cincinnati, and the Eva Cohon Gallery in Chicago and Highland Park, IL.
In 1975, his work was included in the Whitney Museum’s Biennial of Contemporary Art, an event that inspired him to establish a New York gallery connection by renting most of Andy Warhol’s factory, where Mullen lived and worked in 1975 and 1976.
Work produced during that period and until 2010 has been showcased in fourteen solo exhibitions at the David Findlay Galleries on Madison Avenue and resulted in magazine articles and sales both here and abroad.