A Fantastic World on Display

March 8, 2017 | By Tim Pratt

A gate welcomes visitors to Mukfa, "A Fun Place"
A sign welcomes visitors to the fantasy world of Mukfa.

Mukfa is a fun place.

It’s a place where King Wendall and Queen Miriam rule the land; where there are bandits, gangsters and a host of other colorful characters; and where there are shops, newspapers, an airport and even a university named “Yes U!”

Mukfa is a fantasy world created over the last half-century by artist Ronald Markman. From March 10 through April 23, that world will be on display in the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College in Annapolis.

“It’s sort of like a theater of the absurd,” says Lucinda Edinberg, art educator at the Mitchell Gallery.

The exhibit, “The Fantastic World of Ronald Markman: A Mini-Retrospective,” is made up of nearly 50 pieces, many of which are mixed media sculpture—wood, tin, acrylic, plastic, jewels. It also features cartoons Markman drew for Seventeen magazine in the mid-1950s, etchings, early drawings and other pieces.

Events are planned throughout the duration of the exhibit, from tours and a seminar to a workshop and lecture.

A gate serves as the entrance to Mukfa.
A gate in the Mitchell Gallery serves as the entrance to Mukfa.

The Mitchell Gallery previously hosted a Markman exhibit in 2005. The success of that exhibit led the Gallery to bring back Markman’s work for another display, Edinberg says. Only one piece from the 2005 exhibit, a large, colorful gate in the center of the gallery, is on display in the latest installment.

Multiple story-lines can be found throughout the exhibit, from the history of Mukfa to tales of alliances and romances. Countless characters can be found within the pieces, too, from Betty, described as a “sharp gal around town,” to Captain Dan, a leading adventurer. There’s even a “Horace the Mess.”

There are bright colors, texture and movement. And all of it is delivered with a sense of humor and wit.

“Even for all of the wackiness and serendipitous elements, at the core it still has good design,” Edinberg says. “There’s a unity that keeps it all together.”

Markman, now 85, has been an artist since he was a kid growing up in the Bronx. In his teens he trained as a cartoonist, and later earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts through the GI Bill® at Yale University, where he studied under Josef Albers.

Ronald Markman poses with a self portrait.
Ronald Markman poses with a self portrait. (Photograph by Bob Madden)

Markman began creating Mukfa in 1962, when he was on a Fulbright scholarship in Italy.

“Mukfa set me free to explore the limits of the nonsensical, the absurd and the subversive,” he says.

Over the years, Markman continued to hone his craft. His work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Art Institute in Chicago and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC.

Markman is scheduled to lead a workshop at the Mitchell Gallery on April 4 and participate in a lecture at the gallery on April 23, the final day of the exhibit.

The exhibit is free and open to the public, though registration is required for many of the events. For more information, call 410-626-2556.