John Miller's exhibition of new work opens at Metro Pictures on April 3rd and continues through May 8th. The show includes sculptures, wall reliefs and a set of small photographs.
For the past eight years, Miller's signature use of the color brown represents dirt or excrement, suggesting an analogy to the infantile urge to handle feces. But brown is not only symbolic for Miller; it also alludes to elemental or basic material. Its inherent lack of purpose provides Miller with a kind of blank slate or structural framework.
This practice is most obvious in wall reliefs where Miller assembles a variety of objects categorized into topics. When I Kissed the Teacher concerns the subject of schooling. Books, a globe, rulers, and calculators are stuck in brown muck. Some of the objects are real, others are toys, creating disjointed, cartoon-like allegories. Other subjects include health care, games and gambling, and personal hygiene — familiar middle-class fetishes. These reliefs seem to realize trompe l'oeil illusionism in full-blown 3-D.
Eat, Play, and Divide is a mannequin group of four boys whose baseball game has been interrupted. They stand around a pond-like mirror in which a muddy baseball seems to float. What begins as play turns into a reflection on class division, puberty and youth culture through the filter of a definitively American ideal. Although these mannequins are nearly identical versions of a stereotypical white youth, their clothing registers social differences which may have been suspended for the sake of a game. In Miller's floor piece Town And Country, a nature/culture dialectic appears in the juxtaposition between rows of miniature buildings and a few cursory branches stuck in a brown heap. In this post-apocalyptic site, both "town" and "country" are stark depictions lacking any respite such as architectural flourish or lush vegetation. In Aggregate, Miller buries some books under a mound of mud. Dialectically opposed to dirt, the books represent cultural knowledge overtaken by nature's entropic impasto.
John Miller was born in 1954 in Cleveland and now lives in New York. He is co-publisher of the art magazine Acme Journal and his critical writings have been published in numerous art journals including Artforum and Artscribe. In 1992 he received a DAAD fellowship to work in Berlin.