Anna Meliksetian and Michael Briggs are pleased to present Do It Again!, a selection of 1980s-era work by New York-based artist John Miller, now shown for the first time.
The exhibition title is a play on 1960’s radical Jerry Rubin’s Yippie manifesto “Do It!” calling for social revolution. Closely related to Miller’s 1986 exhibition at Metro Pictures, Do It Again! consists of five works, two abstract paintings and a wall sculpture, which the artist refers to as “pseudo-abstractions”,along with two “pseudo-socialist realist” figurative paintings. The latter reference a Black Power rally and a fictional rock band, The Carrie Nations, from Russ Meyers’ film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This band took its name from the radical 19th century abolitionist Carrie Nation. Miller cites Sherrie Levine’s 1984 exhibition entitled 1917 as an influence on this body of work. In that show, Levine appropriated from paintings by Egon Schiele and Kazimir Malevich. Notably, these ostensibly opposed works were all produced in the same year.
This idea led Miller to juxtapose works in seemingly incongruous (yet perhaps only superficially) styles. This opposition of the figurative and abstract, inversions of each other, creates a dialectical relationship; the discourse between the ostensibly transcendent abstracts and the ostensibly transparent realist images. This dialectic qualifies normative authorship, challenging the notion of a “signature style.” Nonetheless, these abstract paintings mark the onset of what Peter Schejldahl dubbed “John Miller Brown,” a visual trope Miller likens to an unwanted trademark. With its excremental connotations, Miller’s use of brown impasto was initially greeted with chagrin – or even revulsion. Yet, through gradual acceptance, by the 1990’s, it had begun to function like an ordinary trademark.