When the Italian photographer Ugo Mulas made his first trip to New York to visit artists’ studios in 1964, his first task was to find his mentor, Marcel Duchamp. According to Mulas historian Hendel Teicher the two seemed to have some fun on the town—Mulas captured a photo of the artist walking through Washington Square Park. But the visit was also intellectual. “He called upon Duchamp to continue his investigation into understanding,” Teicher said. “With Mulas, what his pictures are all about is understanding what you’re looking at.” Mulas tried to disappear into the fabric of each artist’s studio, and make something that gets to the heart of their work.
Over the course of his short life—he died in 1973 at the age of 45—Mulas took countless photographs, did graphic design work, and wrote books about art. But for an exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery, Teicher decided to choose from the photos from those trips to America. “I thought it would be best to focus on his time in New York as an introduction [to his work],” she said. “It was really a wonderful time to get introduced to what the American artists were doing then in their studios.”
The show, which runs through August 16, focuses on the visits he made with Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Barnett Newman, Roy Lichtenstein, and Duchamp, and features the elegantly composed photographs of the giants of the New York School quietly working or regarding their own work. Mulas took humanizing photographs like this for plenty of other artists of the time, but Teicher chose this group of six for a specific reason. “They had a profound impact on his own work and on him,” she said. “He was able to capture the two sides of this artistic reality, which on one side is a lot of fun—the parties, the dancing. But on the other side is the seriousness of the artists, working hands on, silently, and individually.”
Originally Appeared on Vanity Fair