Reduction as Political Commentary in Tom Miller’s Quiet, Formal Constructions
Painter, draughtsman, sculptor, and installation artist Tom Miller melds the artistic with the ordinary, opening up new contexts for the materials and structures we encounter in our day-to-day lives, as the art of his contemporaries and the reductivist artists that preceded him. Miller has a keen appreciation for form and apperception, molding materials and spaces to cast perceptual tricks. “I use forced perspective and symmetry in my work as a structural limitation and as a metaphor or analysis of the political condition,” says Miller. “As a result they reside in the middle ground between physical presence and illusion.”
In Black Gray Spine (2014), Miller joins two similar pieces of painted plywood, one painted white and ridged with horizontal bands, the other painted black and fluted with the same bands running as vertical flutes. The twin triangular pieces meet at one vertex, with some of the white bands protruding barely into the black, forming round bumps reminiscent to the ridges of a spine. The triangle peaks in the middle and its two diagonal edges sweep outward, giving its far more imposing height and presence than its dimensions (less than two-by-four feet) would seem to allow. Likewise, in his two-dimensional work, including Gray Cell (2014) and New Standard (2012), Miller employs one- and two-point perspective drawing techniques to create dynamic compositions that invigorate post-Minimalist imagery.
Set to Topple (2014) is perhaps among Miller’s most ambitious sculptures: the tableau, made in painted wood and concrete, recalls work by artists such as Banks Violette and Steven Parrino, whose theatrical, rock-and-roll-inflected drawings, paintings, and sculptures were aggressively cool. Miller’s sculpture, a wooden platform bisected by a cinder block wall and obelisk, is partially painted in a shiny black acrylic paint, connoting leather, glass, and vinyl records. The work also invokes artists such as Tony Smith, with his almost ceremonial staging of austere sculptural forms, like walls, monoliths, and pillars.
“I use the monochromatic palette to reference truth and specificity,” writes Miller. “I subvert this notion by concentrating the physicality of the paint on forming a structural image.” Miller’s careful attention to form, color, and presentation place him squarely in line with several earlier artists, while innovating and developing material ideas for a new, increasingly immaterial world.