Greetings From Mukfa : A documentary on artist Ronald Markman
This film has been a labor of love since day one. After 15 years of my first encounter with artist Ronald Markman when I first photographed him for the local newspaper, I was pleasantly reacquainted with him a few years ago while photographing for a local arts magazine. When he answered his front door that day, we both smiled and remembered each other from our first meeting (mainly because I climbed a very high ladder to capture his portrait standing next to his largest piece, the Mukfa Gate). My feelings from 15 years ago resurfaced—his work made me giddy, and his personality and warmth were compelling. I learned that he now had Parkinson’s disease, was compromised in his communications, and struggling to produce his art. I decided soon after that I didn’t want to waste any more time and needed to know more about his life that led him to create the work that I was so struck by.
We are now two years into production, with a small crew, on this feature-length documentary about Markman, whose work since the 1960s obsessively focused on an imaginary world he called “Mukfa.” It is a cartoonish, colorful, well-storied land with characters and social commentary that are painted and formed into sculpture-like collages. He reflected our world in over-the-top, fantastical ways, pushing social norms with incredible humor and whimsy. His universal themes—from war, love, and sex to mundane everyday tasks—are still relevant and funny today.
Markman spent the last 20 years of his life in Annapolis, but his story starts in the 1930s, in the Bronx, where he grew up drawing at the kitchen table while listening to old radio shows. He admired renowned illustrator Saul Steinberg and boldly knocked on his door one day to ask for a portfolio review, leading him to an art school where he studied under German Dadaist George Grosz. He went to Yale, studying under Josef Albers, the father of color theory, and was referred to by a Chicago critic as “the long-neglected father of the Chicago Imagist movement.” He was represented by one of the first woman-owned galleries in Manhattan and has works in the MOMA and Hirshorn collections.
Who is Markman and what is the social relevance of Mufka? Why don’t we all know this prolific artist’s name and work? Does his work still have value today? I address these questions through interviews with Markman, his past colleagues, current artists, curators, collectors, and Markman’s family, who are busy archiving the 750+ pieces he left behind after his untimely death in May 2017. This is a multitiered effort to find his role in the art world while opening up the conversation of what happens to an artist’s body of work after the artist dies.
With every interview, we continue uncovering more about Markman’s life. We’ve dug into studio archives, unearthed works in storage, found letters he wrote to his New York City gallery, and tracked down old friends and former students.
We are currently applying for grants and looking for private funding to help us cover the costs of making this film. Any donation or lead to grant opportunities are greatly appreciated. Please email Alison to find out how you can help.