Rodney McMillian’s Supreme Court towers as a monument of dysfunction. Cut from canvas, and placed unstretched on the wall, McMillian presents the great American institution as a ramshackle ruin, a floppy and flaccid emblem of lost power. Adorned with poured paint to create a ‘marble’ facade, McMillian’s halls of justice posit this ‘downfall of the republic’ as humorous and poignant protest, rendered in the subversive scrawl of graffiti. Surging forward as an unruly wave Supreme Court implies disaster in its wake.
rodney mcmillian by james scarborough
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 former posteriors 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.