New York City, NY
An exhibition of works by Los Angeles-based artist Rodney McMillian (b. 1969, Columbia, South Carolina). The exhibition is comprised of a suite of twelve paintings on bed sheets and an untitled video from 2005.
Sourced from thrift stores, the sheets that McMillian uses often bear price tags or traces of former owners, and their size alludes to the intimate encounter of bodies in bed. “I like that it’s a space for more than one person,” McMillian has remarked of his sheets, pointing to “the pleasures we have in bed like sleep, reading, sex.” Already laden with traces of personal and corporeal histories, this found bedding is transformed by the artist into works that engage the history of landscape painting. Using leftover paint from construction supply stores, McMillian responds to the absence of bodies in the history of landscape representation; his pours and splatters evoke what he describes as an “abject history of turmoil or the spillage of blood” that is often missing from the pastoral tradition.
Provoking questions about class and identity, as well as gender and sexuality, McMillian’s works also suggest relationships between inner and outer space. While evoking the body’s interior and the public landscape, his paintings at times also suggest the expansive space of the cosmos.
Science fiction serves as a touchstone for McMillian, who finds in it an analogy for history; both often reveal more about the present than the worlds of the past or future they seek to conjure. McMillian’s landscapes are similarly complex and impure spaces. “My interest in landscapes and these materials is not only in locating them through a different historical lens,” the artist notes, “but also from a type of bodily perspective—as opposd to the shock and awe of the sublime or the godly.”
Exhibition overview from the MomaPS1 website.
Whether you go or not, the monograph that was published to coincide with this exhibition, Rodney McMillian: Landscape Paintings, provides a comprehensive survey of the artist's paintings, a section of his practice also encompassing sculpture, installation and performance. Incorporating and challenging the notion of art as social and historical critique, the works, essays and interview in this publication examine issues of race, identity and commerce in contemporary society. The book contains images of almost every painting produced by McMillian since, and including, his graduate thesis exhibition.