Biography

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At about the same time, McMullan began to steer the classes he had been teaching since 1969 at the School of Visual Arts in a different direction. McMullan reflected on the act of drawing and what had gone wrong in the typical teaching of the subject, and he decided that he could be of much more use to his students if he concentrated on figure drawing in his classes rather than giving assignments in illustration. In 1987 he was sure enough of this new approach to teaching drawing that he had been refining, that he inaugurated the High-Focus Drawing Program at the School of Visual Arts. He eventually trained six other artists to be teachers in the program, and in 1994 Overlook Press published a book on his method, High-Focus Drawing. McMullan is currently working on a new edition of the book. In addition to his regular undergraduate High-Focus classes, McMullan also teaches a summer week-long intensive workshop at School of Visual Arts, which is open to all.

McMullan as created more than forty posters for Lincoln Center Theater. This association with the theater has given him a singular opportunity to experiment, within the context of the poster form, with the ideas closest to his heart. All of the posters in some way or another explore the expressive possibilities of the human body; not only facial expression, but the way the whole body can convey a mood or a relationship to another figure. It is this particular kind of physical metaphor that McMullan has pushed farther than any poster artist since Toulouse Lautrec and for which he is celebrated. In the words of John Guare: "McMullan illustrates the plays at the highest intention their authors imagined."

In 1998 Penguin Studio Books published "The Theater Posters of James McMullan" with an introduction essay by John Guare. The text by McMullan describes both the aesthetic and human route to the finished posters. The work in the book was the subject of an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators in New York City in 1999. An expanded traveling version of that show was inaugurated at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, on July 22, 2001, and will travel from there to various institutions around the country. Inquiries as to specific times and places, or for further information about booking the show, can be addressed by E-mail to curatorial@curatorial.com.