What you will see at the Morningside Heights New York Public Library at 2900 Broadway (at W. 113th St.) is the untitled visual work of Robert Mueller, a widely published poet and literary critic who is now dividing his time between literary pursuits and seeking innovation in the visual arts. Working with traditional materials, color, line and form, he is creating a personal mythology. And at the same time he is playing with verisimilitude. And abstraction. And with words and phrases interlaced through the colored marks and shapes that make up the work.
He calls these works color cards because they present a message, and they are colorful. Often the message will appear obscured or riddling. For Mueller therein lies the business of art, to create difference and estrangement, inviting a conveyance of messages of a different order. There is pleasure here, pleasure of a different kind.
He started the color cards in July of 2010, and most on display were done in November and December of 2011
In earlier works he used colored pencils from a Mattel box for children's play. But most of the works on display feature better pencils and pastels aided by paper from white to cream to light grey, all carefully chosen.
Does all of this add up to meaning? Can these be understood? In the traditional sense the answer is no. However, if the viewer is willing to use the imagination, the answer is a very rewarding yes. The pictures are teeming with levels of meaning both at the conscious and unconscious level. For example there are landscapes. Or are they?
This is an audacious display for an artist new to this medium. If one understood Cocteau when he said in The Art of Cinema, I was trying to say what I said or as Mueller wrote in one of his poem, Yellow Peak, A Stole, A Bell:
All starting is collecting, all breaching
Of the sterling wall a growing
it becomes clear that the poet/painter practices art as a simultaneous gathering of resources and a journey of discovery for both artist and viewer.
Where does Robert Mueller go from here? Back to poetry exclusively? To further exploration of the visual arts? My guess is that the language scattered through the paintings will disappear as he finds ways with color, line and form to convey what language was conveying. Perhaps there will be titles.
There is great promise in the initial show. What comes next? Surprises? Most likely.