Sunday, June 1st, 2003

Rodney McMillian

Untitled (ellipses) II
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
5363 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles CA 90036

May 31 – June 28, 2003

Rodney McMillian chair 2003, 33" x 38" x 33", courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
Rodney McMillian, chair 2003, 33" x 38" x 33", courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects

Rodney McMillian’s work limns absence as an unmitigated presence. His take on absence is more sensuous than cerebral. He doesn’t deconstruct the idea of absence and then rebuild it as a dialectical opposition, positing that what’s notseen, felt, experienced is as significant, perhaps more so, as that which is. He waxes nostalgic, as Van Gogh does in his painting of the empty chair in which sat his chum Paul Gauguin when he dropped in for a visit to Arles. The subject of both McMillian’s show and this painting of Van Gogh is not our reaction to a void but our innate tendency to venerate the void itself as something sacred and iconic.

McMillian presents sensuous absences. “an audience”, 2003, (the titles aren’t capitalized) consists of a five minute continuous loop DVD which shows a panning camera that focuses on the various reactions of the audience for pop icon’s Michael Jackson’s 30th anniversary special. As befits an icon, everyone, including a bejeweled Elizabeth Taylor, waxes some state of rapture. The women gyrate and undulate (we’d hear them ululate, too, if the sound was turned up) like maenads in ecstatic transport. “chair” 2003, has a plain, lopsided, threadbare chair, sitting in a corner. It’s not much to look at, yet it has a particular sanctity of place, like an icon, a familiar location where it would be set, like Archie Bunker’s armchair from the television series “All in the Family” which has since been enshrined in the Smithsonian. As a repository and sum of formerposteriors that have dented its cushions, of previous elbows that have grazed the armrests, the chair offers not a weedy patina of desuetude but an apotheosis of its former occupant.

The show does not convene a séance of poltergeists. Rather, it describes our rush to fill a void of the real person. For whatever reason the viewer doesn’t have before them the flesh and blood Michael Jackson, the now-gone parent, friend, lover whose body formed the concavities of the chair. Instead of the respective platonic ideals or singular simulacrums of these people we have their residue. Face it, just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too can we not exist without mementos, lingering traces, if not autographs, then memories stored in our heart and keepsakes stored in our attic, of people we have known or else admired from afar. It’s human nature to revere, to gape and awe, discretely or not, a point that Rodney McMillian makes subtly and not without wry humor. His role is to remind us of our fascination with the aura of remnants. Auras harbor and replenish our hopes and fantasies, nourish our memories,allowing us to say, without remorse, that as long as we have proximity to something of substance of someone, then through a process of transubstantiation, we’ve got plenty of nothing and that nothing is plenty for us.