Untitled (Rodney McMillian)

Rodney McMillian

Exhibition: Mar 13 – May 11, 2008

McMillian’s Untitled comprises a group of paintings, photographs, and historical ephemera. Each work references myriad sources—from Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road to 19th-century American and German landscape painting. Seen as a unit, these works form a constellation that situates paintings adjacent to sculpture in order to explore themes related to the landscape, church, and home.

The five canvases hanging from ceiling to floor are laden with a combination of red, black, and white latex and acrylic paints. Between these paintings are anonymous portraits, gathered by the artist from antique stores. The photographs, all framed and altered to measure 11 x 14 inches, are stacked in vertical columns that terminate just above eye level. The resulting uniformity of these images suggests the organization of tombstones in a graveyard or the columns of names listed on a memorial wall. By using photographs of unknown individuals, McMillian has emphasized the vast numbers represented in human birth and death.

The sculptural nexus of the exhibition—a ragged chair and rug—is surmounted by a six-pointed, vaulted paper canopy. This makeshift cathedral ceiling, however, is dwarfed by the paintings dominating the walls. Linking sculpture and painting, McMillian has coated the soiled chair and rug with thick applications, respectively, of red acrylic and latex paint.

The sound component to the installation, Pelicans in Texas by musician Stefan Tcherepnin, is a synthesizer-based minimalist composition. This two-channel progression pulses back and forth between silent tracks and cacophonous, yet oddly meditative sound. Reverberating bass frequencies and dissonant spiking sounds bounce throughout the space, permeating the environment. By presenting this musical compilation in conjunction with the physical elements of the installation, McMillian conjures an atypical cathedral setting.

Untitled (detail)


Rodney McMillian

Los Angeles, California, USA

Rodney McMillian’s multimedia installations recycle remnants of everyday life into objects that deconstruct the tenets of historical interpretation. Formally trained in both painting and foreign affairs, McMillian in his exhibitions and performances juxtaposes a variety of media—from realist paintings to found objects and video—resisting adherence to a single creative practice. These strategies provide a language to examine an idea of history as a non-linear construction, consumerism, and pop culture.
Rodney McMillian was born in Columbia, SC, in 1969. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. McMillian received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA, in 2005. He has had solo exhibitions at Neuer Aachener Kunstverein (NAK), Aachen, Germany (2007); Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Culver City, CA (2006, 03); and Triple Candie, New York, NY (2003), among others. His group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2008); Rodney McMillian and Olga Koumoundouros: On a Porch, LAXART, Los Angeles, CA (2007); and Painting in Tongues, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2006). He was recently awarded the William H. Johnson Prize by The William H. Johnson Foundation for the Arts (2007).

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Franklin Sirmans

Houston, Texas, USA

In June 2006, Franklin Sirmans was appointed Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection and begins the post in mid August. Previous to the appointment Sirmans had been an independent curator, writer, editor and lecturer based in New York City, NY. A former U.S. Editor of Flash Art he has written for numerous publications. Among other exhibitions he was co-curator of Basquiat (2005-2006: Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York at Sculpture Center, NY; and One Planet Under A Groove: Contemporary Art and Hip Hop (2001-2003: Bronx Museum of Art, Spelman College Art Gallery, Atlanta, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany). He contributed to catalogues for exhibitions such as Freestyle and Black Belt at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and contributed to Gary Simmons at the MCA, Chicago and Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (Contemporary Art Museum, Houston). He has written monographs on artists such as Edgar Arceneaux, Monika Bravo, Iona Brown, Mia Enell, Manuel Esnoz, Charles Gaines, Kojo Griffin, Dario Robleto, and Kehinde Wiley.
Photo by George Hixson

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