“Here in the Real World” is John Miller's 14th exhibition at Metro Pictures since joining the gallery in 1984.
Miller exhibits his game show paintings (begun in 1998) and two series of relief portrait paintings: reality tv personalities (started 2009) and the more recent pedestrian paintings (started 2013), which are presented as a frieze of figures in the gallery’s first room. Additionally, Miller presents a wallpaper mural and a digital animation made with longtime collaborator Takuji Kogo under the name Robot.
Miller is an artist, writer, teacher and musician, whose work has both utilized and undermined the rigid strategies of conceptual art since the early 1980s. The subsequent framework for Miller’s work results in mundane and familiar constructs. This exhibition continues and reconsiders his investigation into the exchange between art and the everyday – and the absorption of each into the other.
In each series of paintings Miller selects images of people in supposedly uncontrived poses and paints them in a realist manner. Like the wallpaper mural, the pedestrian paintings use images from the Middle of the Day series, an ongoing project he began in 1994 in which he takes a photograph everyday between 12pm and 2pm. These images of unwittingly photographed pedestrians reflect what clothing, hairstyle, and other personal articles communicate in what Miller refers to as the “presentation of self” that occurs in public space. Where the pedestrian paintings depict public groups, Miller’s reality tv paintings focus on the ostensibly private or intimate moments in which cast members, usually alone, breakdown and cry in front of the camera and in turn the show’s audience. Precursors to this series, Miller’s game show paintings anticipated the packaging of real life that emerged with the ascendancy of reality tv and social media. These paintings present either the impossibly jubilant contestants or the stage sets for popular shows such as The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal.
Much in the same way Miller’s game show paintings anticipated the ascent of reality tv and social media, Robot’s videos forecasted the evolution of dating services from discreet, marginalized personal ads to the prevalence of highly commodified online dating. Initially using text from personal ads found in periodicals, Miller and Kogo now rely on dating websites for lyrics to their digitally generated (MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface) scores. In their song I Love to Make People Laugh the discomfiting lyrics are emphasized with running text and in this instance combined with images of an empty theatre. Likewise, Miller’s wallpaper mural doubles an unremarkable loading dock in New York’s Chinatown to become an uncanny “pattern.” The mural serves as a backdrop for a perceived reality that is “as good as real.”
In collaboration with Mary Boone Gallery “Here in the Real World” is exhibited in two parts at Metro Pictures and Mary Boone Gallery’s location at 541 W. 24th Street. The exhibition is curated by Piper Marshall.
John Miller is a regular contributor to art journals and magazines. JRP|Ringier has published two anthologies of his essays, “The Ruin of Exchange” and “The Price Club.” His forthcoming book “Educational Complex” examines Mike Kelley’s eponymous work and will be available later this year as part of Afterall’s One Work series.
John Miller has had one-person exhibitions at Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Kunsthalle Zürich (accompanied by an extensive catalogue); Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; Magasin Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France; and Kunstverein Hamburg. Miller has participated in major group exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; CAPC Musée D’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux; Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid; and MoMA PS1, New York. His work was included in the 1991 Whitney Biennial and the 2010 Gwangju Biennale.