Rodney McMillian, artist and professor of sculpture in the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, is exhibiting a new show titled “Body Politic” at Vielmetter Los Angeles. The work builds on themes of racial and socioeconomic injustice, and the relationship between politics and aesthetics that McMillian has explored in his earlier work.
McMillian lives and works in Los Angeles. He received an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 2002. In 2019, his solo exhibition at the Underground Museum in Los Angeles featured several video works originally presented in his 2016 solo exhibition at the ICA Philadelphia. The first West Coast presentation of McMillian’s opera, “Hanging With Clarence,” was staged at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Compton. His monumental installation “In This Land” was on view as part of the New Work series at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in early 2019. He received the Contemporary Austin’s first Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize in 2016, and the resulting solo exhibition “Against a Civic Death” was on view in 2018.
His 2010 work in black vinyl, titled “Succulent,” is currently installed in the Agnes Gund Garden Lobby at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A selection of McMillian’s video works that address the political histories of the United States is on view in the solo exhibition “Historically Hostile” at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston. Taken together with the new works on view at Vielmetter, these presentations mark McMillian’s exposition of histories, ideologies and structures that have shaped the United States.
In his work, McMillian explores the complex and fraught connections between history and contemporary culture, not only as they are expressed in American politics, but also as they are manifest in American modernist art traditions. Over the course of his career, his work has questioned the connections between the body of a political nature and the politics of a bodily nature. This exploration is at the fore of this new body of work in the exhibition.
In addition to large-scale vinyl sculptures, McMillian also produced a series of works on paper, titled “An Abbreviated History in Abstraction,” which combine mixed media and text to narrate a history of the violence against Black bodies in the name of science and of the profit gained from slavery through the present. In these drawings, McMillian holds up the blood-stained land and the often-obscured histories of structural racial violence as a record of one of the many histories of this nation.