Among John Miller’s significant interests is an ongoing concern for the perception and understanding of art, including the current conditions of its production and consumption. His works often address public space, especially its prevalent forms of representation that can express and regulate a broad range of identities. Throughout his career, Miller has deployed brown paint, gold, and fruit as allegorical tropes; photo wallpaper, globes, photographs, Litfaßsäulen, shaped paintings of pedestrians, as well as conventional paintings of landscapes, reality TV programs, and game shows. Mannequins are yet another recurrent element that the artist adapts as an ostensible mode of reality. This theme is the focus of Other Subjectivities, an exhibition at both Meyer Riegger and the Galerie Barbara Weiss Annex.
The Barbara Weiss location will feature two videos: “What Is a Subject?” and “Deus ex Machina.” Meyer Riegger will show “A Place Called Hope” together with an installation and large-format photographs of mannequins. The videos and photographs straddle both illusory worlds and reality. Miller contends that mannequins are merely anthropomorphized sales display racks that prompt a sometimes-unnerving degree of identification. Rather than attempting to portray the exotic, Miller embraces normative styles and scenarios. In this way, he offers emotionless surrogates as a projection surface for the associations that we, as both beholders and consumers, directly link to fleeting trends and fashions. These projections not only concern popular culture but also pinpoint the present position of the art world within it.
“Poverty” (2018) features a child mannequin clad in a white, three-piece suit. Around his neck hangs a medallion. At his feet lies a German-language pamphlet of the Situationist manifesto, “On the Poverty of Student Life: considered in its economic, political, psychological, sexual and particularly intellectual aspects, and a modest proposal for its remedy” (1966). Likewise, the title “Dress Rehearsal for the Revolution” (2019) alludes to the political mobilization of youth culture, real or imagined.
‘The Revolution’ was, on the one hand, a band assembled by Prince; here, however, the artist may be alluding to revolutions of any form. The work itself is an installation of five mannequins, posed as a schematic rock band. Since music has played an important part both in Miller’s personal life and in his oeuvre, perhaps here he offers a fantasy with which he identifies. In any event, this constellation of rigid yet humanized figures serves to return, but also direct, the gaze of expectant gallery-goers.