Nicolas G. Miller “Pastoral”

Nicolas G. Miller, "Pastoral," Marfa Book Co. Gallery, November 16th - December 12, 2012

One of our favorite local artists is Nicolas G. Miller, whose exhibition "Pastoral" we presented in November 2012. Miller is probably best known for his musical compositions and his artist's editions project, Recondite Industries, but he has been moving into something decidedly more sculptural and lan(d)guage oriented in the past year, which has really impressed us. The works in "Pastoral" pose a series of interesting questions about Land Art, language in art, and the position of "the natural" in contemporary art and commerce.  There's also a fair amount of play with mimicry and mimesis, as you can see in this work:

The exhibition also made an interesting use of mirrors, especially in that they're used in decidedly different ways in each piece.  In the work below, Miller makes a reference to Robert Smithson's well-known non-sites, but here the mirrors are turned inward, endlessly reflecting, a model of solipsism, or perhaps merely make a gesture toward what's unthinkable.  There's also something exceptionally controlled about this treatment of land art; it's very geometric.  And the mounds of dirt are equally distributed along a gentle curve.

Another use of the mirror is found in "Birch Effect", which makes use of an IKEA bookcase. The piece borrows its title from the name of its veneer, chosen from the company's list of options.  We are reminded that this bookshelf isn't made of birch, but rather consists of a birch effect.  Miller emphasizes this by attaching mirrors to the tops and bottoms of each shelf.  As a consequence, the piece "grows" infinitely earth and skyward, immediately upon peering in to see the surface of the mirror.

One last body of work that I'd like to mention is the set of "Perfect Landscapes", which consist of three pairs of framed letterpress prints, each reproducing the title card information for a painting by Thomas Gainsborough in the international Phonetic Alphabet.  The text of the prints in each pair is identical, but the overall formats differ.  To put it plainly, one is small and the other large.  Their sizes have been determined by the two most common aspect ratios for motion pictures. Here's a look at one of the pairs; this one consisting of the title for Gainsborough's "Wooded Upland Landscape":