Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death

AUSTIN –The Contemporary Austin will present a solo exhibition of newly commissioned and recent works by the Los Angeles–based artist Rodney McMillian. On view at the museum’s downtown location on Congress Avenue, Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death is an immersive installation that fills the entire exhibition space and incorporates paintings, sculptural installations, video, and sound pieces.

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Rodney McMillian, Untitled (neighbors) (still), 2017. Forthcoming video work. Commissioned by The Contemporary Austin with funds provided by the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize. Artwork © Rodney McMillian. Image courtesy the artist; Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; and Maccarone, Los Angeles/New York.

McMillian was selected by an independent Advisory Committee of six renowned curators from across the U.S. to be the inaugural winner of The Contemporary Austin’s Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, which awarded McMillian a $100,000 unrestricted prize along with a solo exhibition and a scholarly catalogue. The exhibition will be on view from February 1 through August 26, 2018, and will be accompanied by educational programming including films, performances, and lectures. The catalogue will feature the new work created for the exhibition in Austin, along with a history of McMillian’s performance-based works from throughout his career. More information about the exhibition, related programming, and the prize is available at thecontemporaryaustin.org.

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Rodney McMillian, pod: frequencies to a manifestationing (detail), 2016. Vases, wood shelves, spray paint, fabric, chicken wire, PA system, and sound installation. Dimensions variable. Artwork © Rodney McMillian. Image courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photograph by Robert Wedemeyer.

“The Contemporary Austin is built on collaboration, and the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize contributes to this, offering an artist the latitude to expand their practice or even experiment with new formats,” said Louis Grachos, the Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director and CEO of The Contemporary. “As the inaugural awardee, Rodney has taken advantage of this opportunity to create new work and to rethink his past work in a new context. We are proud to present Rodney’s exhibition and to create a space that can contribute to a civil discourse on the history and ideas that he thoughtfully explores in these powerful and engaging installations.”

Adds Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs Heather Pesanti, “This exhibition expands Rodney’s inquiries into painting, installation, and performance to express a nuanced and poetic social critique of American history and the ideologies that have driven this historical narrative. The work and presentation will challenge the viewer to confront difficult and poignant issues, offering a courageous and progressive exhibition that allows for open-ended resolution.”

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Rodney McMillian, pod: frequencies to a manifestationing (detail), 2016. Vases, wood shelves, spray paint, fabric, chicken wire, PA system, and sound installation. Dimensions variable. Artwork © Rodney McMillian. Image courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photograph by Robert Wedemeyer.

Originally trained as a painter, Rodney McMillian has expanded the breadth of his practice over the last decade to include sculpture, video, performance, and installation. His work frequently incorporates “post-consumer” objects or “found” materials—as well as interactive and performative elements, resulting in unique forms that have a deep relevance to their context and time. From bedsheets to cut vinyl to household objects, McMillian combines unexpected materials with traditional techniques of painting and sculpture, as well as thoughtfully conceived live and recorded performances that often reference speeches, lectures, or other texts from American history to explore the complex and often tenuous narratives that shape our culture and our lives.

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