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John Miller

John Miller

June 26 - July 25, 2004
Reception: Thursday, June 24, 6-9PM

Jeffrey Charles Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by John Miller. Miller has just completed two solo shows in the US "Everything is Painted Brown" at Metro Pictures, NY and "Total Transparency" at Richard Telles Fine Arts, Los Angeles. He was recently featured in Artforum: April, 2004 Portfolio/John Miller "Middle of the Day" Bob Nickas, pp. 132-137. This is his first solo show in the UK. The work that makes up this exhibition relates to Miller's on going analysis of on-line dating. The show consists of a group of 8x10" photographs superimposed with text from personals ads Also included are three large graph posters that plot analytical data gained from Miller's own research through direct participation with internet dating sites, and an accompanying essay written specifically for the show. The photographs show sites located around the vicinity of Jeffrey Charles Gallery, mainly in London postal code area E1.

Central to John Miller's work is the modeling of social identification and representation. In the early 1990's a trademark John-Miller-Brown matter, that did more than just allude to excrement, typified the artist's sculptures and wall reliefs. This motif presented the artwork as libidinal consumer fetish. The game show paintings which followed featured the sets from TV game-shows, particularly The Price is Right. At the end of the 90's an installation The Lugubrious Game realized this theme as a life-size sculpture, offering a picture of the American dream vis-à-vis machinations of the art market.

Recently Miller has used personals ads taken from the printed press as theoretical and concrete material for his art work. Previous works examined implicit social and hierarchical structures in ads from New York's Village Voice, Cologne's Stadt Revue and Karlsruhe's Sperrmuell. For a recent show in Los Angeles at Richard Telles Fine Art and for his project at Jeffrey Charles Gallery, Miller has turned to internet dating sites as a starting point for his work using Pierre Bourdieu's notion of social fields as an approach to his own analysis. An aspect of personals ads that Miller is interested in is their intermingling of public and private spheres. Therein arises the inevitable ambivalence between empirical objectivity and imagination, drawn from the anonymity of the advertiser who tries to package his/her individuality in a marketable form.

The photographs in John Miller's show with Jeffrey Charles Gallery include: a church, a police station, a university, a bar, an abandoned house, a pedestrian underpass, and a main road. Various spatial codes sanction or prohibit sexual behavior in these places. Ads themselves or graphs plotting the analytical data are superimposed over the photographs. The images all contrast concrete space as a social form with the symbolic social space of the online ad. This combination, however, is rather oblique. The only common denominator may be a shared locality. Thus, the implications are murky. In terms of genre, they are both portraits and landscapes. The superimposition of type over an image suggests a screen or transparent layer. The type inevitably assumes the authority of a caption.

"Classified ads necessarily concern classification. I contend that personals ads inadvertently reconstitute prevailing social hierarchies under the aegis of free subjectivity or liberated sexuality. Of course, this is not all they do. In fact, this tendency is at cross purposes with their nominal function. It shows a conflict within social space. What graphing – even simply the decision to graph – does is to show further the discourse of the personals ad as a distinct social field. This makes its ideological basis more evident. My affinity for this material is like that of an armchair sociologist, an amateur inspired by the work of Pierre Bourdieu."
John miller, from "Life sucks...": Seventeen Personals Ads from the Yamaguchi Region

John Miller's work focuses on cultural practices that serve as ritual markers to our collective identity. On-line dating and the internet are targeted as an information network that collapses distances while promoting life experience as a performance, game, or wager. Communication via these "dating services" suggests immediate gratification of one's desires, albeit an activity involving the machinery of a "middleman," profiting from the transaction. Miller examines the market-driven rationalisations that vie with the romantic concept of fate and character, reducing the external world to entirely subjective forces. In subscribing to these services, one attempts to play with chance in order to eradicate it. By describing thousands of people on-line, making character legible, administrative structure is imposed upon the unknown. Miller finds that the utopian impulse for total transparency, symbolised by this on-line dating activity, is revealed as a complete surveillance of the other, and may ultimately prove futile. He refers to all that is unknowable, including failure and impotence. Aspects of the unconscious, it is that psychic apparatus that ultimately defies containment of the sprawl of human thought and experience.

"Those of us who have followed John Miller's career over the past fifteen or so years know that he is one of those artists who has worked in a multitude of manners. He has painted scenes of everyday life that bring to mind the works of the social realist artists of american 1930s; and he has made other paintings, in the same very direct manner, of such stereotypical or "stock" images as butterflies, fairies and devils--images that look almost as if they were clipped directly from children's storybooks. He has made simple pencil drawings of real estate, uninflected renderings of the interiors and exteriors of a wide variety of abodes. Then there are photographs, taken during the middle of the day when the sun is positioned directly overhead, casting its unflattering light on a seemingly endless variety of human activities and locales. He has worked with found objects, covered in gold leaf, grouped together in assemblages and sometimes slathered with, or buried in, a deep brown impasto."
Mike Kelley, John Miller: Economies Paralléles/Parallel Economies 1999, From Mike Kelley: Foul Perfection, 2002

"From the outset, he [John Miller] has argued in fact that artists have no choice but to address sociopolitical questions and ideological apparatuses involved in the production of cultural "artefacts." Along with such contemporaries as Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, as well as Tony Oursler, Christopher Williams, and Stephen Prina, Miller has synthesized a committed critique of representation with a postconceptual shift towards the "real." Using stereotyped genres such as figurative painting, travel photography, and landscape painting, he has challenged - not without parallel to the work of Sherrie Levine or Richard prince - the function of the author and the concomitant artwork's loss of "aura." It became more explicit in Miller's "brown impasto" works at the end of the 80's that this critique was first and foremost a means of revealing the repressed aspect of the ideological aggregates of day-to-day late-capitalist Western culture."
Lionel Bovier, John Miller: The Price Club, Selected Writings (1977-1998) ,2000

John Miller has exhibited internationally over the last 30 years predominantly in the U.S. and mainland Europe. Recent solo shows have been held at Metro Pictures, New York, PS1, New York, Richard Telles Fine Art, LA and Galerie Praz-Delavallade, Paris. An earlier sculpture by Miller was shown in Mike Kelley: The Uncanny at Liverpool Tate. Changing contexts characterizes not only where Miller lives and works, dividing his time between New York and Berlin but also his dual roles as an artist and critic. In the mid 80's Miller worked as the U.S. editor of the British magazine Artscribe. He now contributes regularly to the Berlin based journal Texte zur Kunst. John Miller is represented in the USA by Metro Pictures, New York and Patrick Painter, Los Angeles and in Europe by Meyer Riegger Galerie, Karlsruhe, Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin and Cologne, Galerie Barbara Weiss, Berlin and Galerie Prez-Delavallade, Paris

Jeffrey Charles Gallery
34 Settles Street
E1 1JP

Saturdays and Sundays 12-6pm or by appointment


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