In 1986, the Mark Rothko Foundation sponsored a third exhibition program to bring attention to the work of older artists who were deemed not to have received the critical attention they deserved over the course of their careers. Gerome Kamrowski, Lee Mullican, and Gordon Onslow-Ford were chosen for that year's program, and unlike previous groupings, these artists were bound by certain similarities in their work. All three artists came of age in the 1940s and had found themselves wrapped up early on in the discourse surrounding both Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism (Onslow-Ford and Kamrowski were both officially accepted as members of André Breton's movement). In the year of this exhibition, all three artists were still working through some of the critical problems of that period, though in distinct ways. It was this fact that prompted the art critic and curator Dan Cameron to characterize them as "modern in mind" in the age of postmodernism.
Without fully negating it, all three artists had cultivated an almost playful attitude toward the highly serious, late-Modernist, Abstract-Expressionist doctrine. Kamrowski's colorful, toy-sized figurines of mythical creatures retain some hint of the spiritual sublime at the same time that they present themselves as formations of found materials. Lee Mullican's oil paintings recite the language of the Abstract Expressionist picture, albeit indirectly, using paint to evoke textile, with each brushstroke functioning as a single stitch, rather than as a heroic gesture. Gordon Onslow-Ford's abstract fields present "mental universes" replete with signs and characters derived from his careful study of Chinese calligraphy, all of which strangely resemble galaxy patterns from outer space. Though painted in acrylic on linen, his works are not entirely "medium-specific," borrowing much from the language of photography.