Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects is pleased to announce that Rodney McMillian’s fifth solo exhibition at the gallery, “Chisholm’s reverb,” will open on September 10, 2016. In this exhibition, McMillian utilizes a range of material, formal, and conceptual strategies to explore the complex and often tenuous historical narratives and social systems that shape our lives.
One of the predominant works in the exhibition focuses on the legacy of Shirley Chisholm (1924 -2005) who was a seven-term (1969 – 1983) Congresswoman and the first black and first female person to campaign for the Democratic Presidential Nomination (1972). Notably, in contemporary political discourse and much written history of the 20th century, Chisholm’s accomplishments are conspicuously absent or reduced to the status of the symbolic. Likewise, in the exhibition, Chisholm’s person, her likeness, her body are not present.
In the center of Gallery 1, Chisholm’s May 22, 1972 speech at UCLA is projected from a public address system that is suspended from the ceiling. Shelves holding black vases, still lifes in three dimensions, surround the sound system. Historically, still life paintings have served as allegorical representations of the mundane and repetitive aspects of human life; particularly those related to the consumption of food and intoxicants, to knowledge, and to beauty. While McMillian’s still life sculptures may point to an ordinariness of beauty, they are also vessels that once held flowers but now hold sounds. The viewer can wander here, examining each shelf, aware of their bodies in relation to the objects, listening to Chisholm’s words and to another audio piece that centers on Alice Coltrane’s “Journey to Satchidananda.” Through this installation, McMillian proposes an alternate present that we might inhabit as a way to affect change in our current reality. This alternate present is one in which Chisholm’s effect on policy is manifest via a more equitable social and political reality.
McMillian has transformed Gallery 3 with an object, “a prism,” creating an unseen and inaccessible space. A vocal interpretation of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s 1975 song “That’s the Way of the World” with its repeating chorus “Child is born with a heart of gold / Way of the world makes his heart so cold” emanates from another wall in the gallery. “a prism” depends upon the actual architecture of the space to create shapes that suggests a psychic shift, portals through time or consciousness. Feminist philosopher Michele Wallace has explored the idea of portals, specifically black holes, in which objects are compressed to the point of disappearance and reappear on the other side, fundamentally transformed in accordance with the rules of an alternate, as of yet invisible, dimension. She has written that, “Contrary to everything we’ve been taught about black holes in general, in space black holes are full, not empty.”
In 2016, McMillian has had solo exhibitions at the ICA Philadelphia, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and MoMA PS.1. Each of these exhibitions highlighted a particular set of material and conceptual concerns in McMillian’s multivalent practice. Other recent solo exhibitions include “Landscape Paintings,” Aspen Art Museum, CO (2015); “Sentimental Disappointment,” Momentum 14: Rodney McMillian, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2009); The Kitchen, New York (2008). McMillian’s work was featured in the 2015 Sharjah Biennial, curated by Eungie Joo. His work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, Norway; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; the Contemporary Art Museum Houston; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art among many others. Rodney McMillian received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2002. He lives and works in Los Angeles.