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b. 1954, USA

John Miller Biography

Working with painting, photography, video, assemblage and sculpture, American artist John Miller's practice is profoundly diverse. What ties his oeuvre together, however, is a concern with American society—particularly notions of class, consumerism and economics.

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Miller studied at California Institute of the Arts in the late 1970s, where Conceptualism and a critique of pop culture were prominent concerns. After graduating, Miller began making the works for which he would become well known; this series saw him repeatedly covering objects and paintings in thick layers of brown impasto—a shade that would develop into his signature and critic Peter Schjeldahl would term 'John Miller Brown'. With obvious fecal connotations, sculptures such as Untitled (1988) (a brown mound topped with a tiny house) and World Without End (1990) (a brown sphere pierced with hundreds of spikes) took on a dirty, bodily aesthetic Miller saw 'as a trademark no one wanted'.

At the same time, Miller was making and exhibiting highly realistic drawings of buildings and domestic spaces, rendered with a regard for tradition and attention to detail that appeared antithetical to his haphazard brown-encrusted works. Miller has continued to make such naturalistic drawings throughout his career, in recent years moving to life-size, detailed graphite street scenes and portraits of pedestrians. Such an interest in the ordinary is also reflected in his long-running project 'Middle of the Day' (1994–ongoing), for which the artist photographs city life between 12:00pm and 2:00pm; the beauty and banality of each image serves as a reminder of the magnificent tedium of the day-to-day.

Another important recurring motif in Miller's practice is the mannequin, which he has been presenting as sculpture with a wry sense of humour since 1989. In Echo and Narcissus (1990), a male and female mannequin wear brown clothes. The male gazes into a mirror and both pose awkwardly. Similarly, in My Friend (1989), a stiff-looking male mannequin stands in a chocolate-brown suit. In the 1992 work Now We're Big Potatoes, the fair and debonair young man(nequin) stands staunch with left hand on hip but right foot in a pile of feces.

Fecal matter is a recurring subject in Miller's artistic practice, as is gold. In addition to the brown tones for which he is best known, he also cloaks everyday objects in imitation gold leaf. Accordingly, gold phallic forms, architectural objects and household items arouse a primal attraction to metallic glimmer; the eye is drawn, magpie-like, to the glinting surfaces. However, upon closer inspection, the gold-covered objects appear cheap and even somewhat apocalyptic. Playing on authenticity and falsity, the works demonstrate Miller's ambivalence towards capitalism and the value of art in consumer culture.

Miller attended Rhode Island School of Design where he received his BFA in 1977. He also attended Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program in 1978, and then California Institute of the Arts, where he received his MFA in 1979 and studied alongside fellow artists Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler. Currently, he splits his time between Berlin and New York, where he is a Professor of Professional Practice in Art History at Barnard College.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018


John Miller Featured Artworks

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Untitled (02-10-06) by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerUntitled (02-10-06), 2006Inkjet print
13.5 x 20.3 cm
Metro Pictures Enquire about this work
Untitled (07-09-08) by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerUntitled (07-09-08), 2008Inkjet print
20.3 x 15.2 cm
Metro Pictures Enquire about this work
Untitled (08-06-08) by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerUntitled (08-06-08), 2008Inkjet print
14.6 x 19.7 cm
Metro Pictures Enquire about this work
Untitled (07-03-08) by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerUntitled (07-03-08), 2008Inkjet print
14.6 x 19.7 cm
Metro Pictures Enquire about this work
Cyclists by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerCyclists, 2013Acrylic on styrofoam and wood panels
114 x 150 x 4 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work
Temple by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerTemple, 2006MDF, styrofoam, plaster, papier mache, plastic fruit, plastic and metal kitchen utensils, construction adhesive, composite (metal alloy) gold leaf, mirrors
86 x 145 x 153 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work
Lost Years by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerLost Years, 2008Imitation gold leaf on assorted objects on hollow-core panel
167.6 x 167.6 x 40.6 cm
Campoli Presti Enquire about this work
A Bridge of Tradition by John Miller contemporary artwork
John MillerA Bridge of Tradition, 2009Imitation gold leaf, assorted objects, fiberglass
257 x 450 x 350 cm
Gary Tatintsian Gallery Enquire about this work

John Miller Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, SHELTER IN PLACE at Metro Pictures, New York
Open Now
25 May–1 August 2020 Group Exhibition SHELTER IN PLACE Metro PicturesOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Dog Days at Metro Pictures, New York
Open Now
1 May–1 August 2020 Group Exhibition Dog Days Metro PicturesOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, John Miller, The Collapse of Neoliberalism at Metro Pictures, New York
Closed
30 January–14 March 2020 John Miller The Collapse of Neoliberalism Metro PicturesNew York

John Miller Represented By

Campoli Presti contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Campoli Presti London, Paris
Metro Pictures contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Metro Pictures New York

John Miller In Related Press

Connecting the Dots in the Met Breuer’s Show About Conspiracy Theories Related Press Connecting the Dots in the Met Breuer’s Show About Conspiracy Theories 15 October 2018, Hyperallergic

It will likely take me months to digest all the lessons I've learned from The Met Breuer's newest exhibition, Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy, so it's a good thing that the show stays open through January.

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Everything is connected: new exhibition on art and conspiracy Related Press Everything is connected: new exhibition on art and conspiracy 17 September 2018, The Guardian

In 1974, Black Panthers artist Emory Douglas created a portrait of Gerald Ford, America's 38th president, being pulled by puppet strings held by giant corporations. A speech bubble had Ford saying: 'I Gerald Ford am the 38th puppet of the United States.'

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John Miller's lost maze disorientates visitors with mirrored panels Related Press John Miller's lost maze disorientates visitors with mirrored panels 9 April 2016, Dezeen

If mazes weren't confusing enough already, American artist John Miller has built one from mirrors to further bewilder lost visitors, at Miami's Institute of Contemporary Art. The labyrinthine installation, aptly titled  Lost,  has been constructed in the Atrium Gallery at ICA Miami as part of a solo exhibition of Miller's...

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John Miller's "I Stand, I Fall" at ICA Leaves No Philosophical or Visual Stone Unturned Related Press John Miller's "I Stand, I Fall" at ICA Leaves No Philosophical or Visual Stone Unturned 24 February 2016, Miami New Times

Artist John Miller is a slender man with long hair and stylish thick-framed glasses. He is very thorough and detailed as he explains the artwork he's created over the past 35 years on display as 'I Stand, I Fall' at ICA Miami.

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