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“Nearby, The White House II, spans a 40’ wall, reimagining a national icon currently imbued with much real, do or die anxiety and imperatives for collective action from voting to protest. Like The White House, 2018 which was created for the artist’s 2018 Suzanne Deal Booth Prize exhibition at the Contemporary Austin, this White House is rendered in bucket-stitched vinyl. In this second version, the building itself is more amorphous, the black stitches that trace its columns, lintels, windows, and other architectural flourishes, which were so clearly articulated in the first version, are hidden from view on the backside of the work, only their shadow showing through the material. The result is a representation of the Presidential residence in tones of white, its dominating neoclassical language, with all of its cues to behave, rendered mostly illegible. Surrounding the White House is a brilliant black sky, with multiple moons, a comet. In contrast to the architecture, staid and containing, this blackness is infinite, imminent, and endlessly expansive.⠀ ⠀ In a 2016 Essay on McMillian’s work, “The Political Imagination of Rodney McMillian,” artist Charles Gaines articulates how McMillian’s use of sewing is a metaphor that transforms something which ordinarily signifies labor into expression; stitches become gesture, drawing. “By applying expression to ordinary acts of labor, he [McMillian] is asking if our subjectivity can have agency in the objective understanding of the world.” This White House II, rendered uninteresting in comparison with the magnetic sky that hints at the artist’s interest in Afro-Futurism and science fiction, the politics and dreams of artists like Sun Ra and Octavia Butler, seems to take the next step of answering that question with a resounding “yes.” In McMillian’s work, subjectivity, expression, and experience reflect not only individual perspectives, but also the culture, the economy, the laws, the histories that created the states individuals and groups of people inhabit; intersecting, but by no means homogenous.”⠀ ⠀ Caption continued in comments.⠀
Rodney McMillian (Art MFA 02) furthers his study of histories and structures integral to shaping the United States in Body Politic, his sixth solo exhibition running until Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, at Vielmetter Los Angeles.
Among the exhibition’s works is White House II, an updated version of a piece from McMillian’s 2018 exhibition at The Contemporary Austin in Texas. Fashioned from scraps of handsewn white vinyl and thread, the work depicts a flat and flimsy likeness of the monument, calling to mind the fragility of the nation’s power structures and how easily they could be torn asunder. In a recent “Essential Arts” column in the Los Angeles Times, reporter-columnist Carolina A. Miranda discussed what the work represents about the US political system:
[A] graceful, idealistic facade behind which resides the ugly residue of our history. (The actual White House was built, in part, by enslaved laborers.) Structures such as the White House represent important sites of “power and indoctrination,” [McMillian] said at the time.
Other works in the exhibition include Untitled (heart), one of three large monochromatic sculptures evocative of human organs. Crafted from black fabric, chicken wire, and acrylic, it is reminiscent of Untitled (lungs), a 2012 sculpture currently housed at The Art Institute of Chicago. These sculptures continue the artist’s quest to seek connections between “the body of a political nature and the politics of a bodily nature.” Other Body Politics pieces are wide-ranging: a series of canvas text-based canvas works; mixed-media paintings, and black fabric sculptures.
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Senior Director Ariel Pittman expounds upon Rodney McMillian’s current exhibition “Body Politic” on view through December 5th. ⠀ ⠀ “Throughout the gallery, three large monochrome sculptures, made over a period of several years, are installed, each representing scaled-up organs of the human body made from chicken wire and black fabric, kindred to a 2012 work now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Untitled (Lungs). These organs have mutated in scale from parts of the body, to bodies in their own right; away from their core functions of pumping blood, converting food into nourishment, evacuation, respiration, digestion, procreation, and pleasure, to signify what happens to a body that is systematically refused it’s humanity and perceived as a series of parts, the body made material. In one particularly gripping example, a snake-like loop, Untitled (Entrails), hangs from steel butcher’s hooks mounted into the gallery’s ceiling. The work forms a drawing in space, a line that viscerally describes disembowelment.” ⠀ ⠀ Image credits: Brica Wilcox and Jeff McLane⠀ ⠀ @rodney.mcmillian⠀ ⠀ #RodneyMcMillian
Check out a virtual 3D tour of the Body Politic exhibition on Vielmetter LA’s website, or schedule an in-person gallery viewing here.
McMillian is an LA-based artist whose practice is rooted in connecting history and contemporary culture. His works can be found in the permanent collections of various museums and galleries, including LACMA, UCLA Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. McMillian is also the recipient of the 2016 Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize.
Sept. 26 – Dec. 5, 2020
Vielmetter Los Angeles
1700 S. Santa Fe Ave. #101, Los Angeles, CA 90021
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