The Kitchen presents an exhibition by Los Angeles-based painter, sculptor, performer and videomaker Rodney McMillian, whose work examines the socio-political dimensions of power associated with cultural, racial, and economic issues. Using Cormac McCarthy’s postapocalyptic tale The Road as a point of departure, McMillian’s untitled installation conjures up his own imagined, battered landscape by bringing together discarded furniture and historical ephemera with his own abstract, gestural paintings. Curated by Rashida Bumbray, the exhibition features a sound piece composed by Stefan Tcherepnin and choreography by Taisha Paggett and will be on view from October 30— December 20, 2008.
The desolate panorama McMillian creates through this constellation of painting, photography and sculpture is suggestive of a sacred chapel or memorial space that calls attention to the roles so many anonymous individuals have played in history. For the installation, McMillian has gathered nameless photographic portraits from antique stores. The pictures are stacked in vertical columns and interspersed on the gallery’s walls with floor-to-ceiling canvases laden with a combination of red, black and white latex and acrylic paints.
The sculptural nexus of the exhibition—a ragged chair and rug also coated in paint—is surmounted by a sixpointed, vaulted paper canopy. Through allusion, McMillian connects conventional practices like churchgoing with more subtle belief systems, including those underlying American Romantic landscape painting, which mirrored the expansionist impulses of 19th century “manifest destiny.” McMillian also suggests how such undercurrents can be evident in new forms today, whether in the proliferation of the religious right or in current foreign policies.
The sound component to the installation, Pelicans in Texas, by Stefan Tcherepnin, is a synthesizer-based minimalist composition that pulses back and forth between silence and a cacophonous, yet oddly meditative, sounds. Bass frequencies and recurring dissonances bounce throughout the space, permeating the installation. Formally trained in both painting and foreign affairs, Rodney McMillian juxtaposes a variety of media in his exhibitions and performances—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. McMillian was born in Columbia, SC, in 1969 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He 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, 2003); 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).