Monday, 21 August 2017

Harland Miller: One Bar Electric Memoir

To White Cube - Mason's Yard once again. This time to see the current show of signature, graphic, fictional book cover paintings by Harland Miller. The upper gallery features these huge paintings of overlapping text using positive and negative space, executed in bright, bold colours.

As well as a nod to Ed Ruscha, I was reminded of Jasper John's overlapping text and numeral paintings which are more painterly in style (below). My favourite of the paintings in this gallery was If, as it contained a harmonious balance of composition and colour. As seductive as the colours were in the other pieces in the upper gallery, I didn't think the overlapping text worked as well in most of the paintings. Perhaps they needed a different configuration and positioning of fonts. I did like the way in which Miller takes authorship of all the book paintings by imprinting his name across the surface. I also found the sly, ambiguous nature of two of the titles - Pot and Bi amusing.

Jasper Johns - 0 Through 9, 1961

I thought the following smaller paintings in the lower gallery were much more successful as a series. They have wryly comic titles and take their inspiration apparently, from Miller's personal collection of psychology books. 

Part of the series of books providing inspiration for Miller may be those such as the Pelican books designed and commissioned in the 1960's by Italian designer/art director Germano Facetti (examples below). The Pelican and Penguin books created at the time reflected and employed the 60's fashion for hard edged abstraction practised by artists such as Ad Rheinhardt, Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly as well the examples by Barbour and Hammersley below.

Germano Facetti - The Divided Self/Self and Others, 1969

Frederick Hammersley - Fractions, 1960

John Barbour - Hard Edge Painting, 1966

I like the way in which Miller has coloured the backgrounds of the paintings to give the impression that the paintings have yellowed and aged, in much the same way that paperbacks do, and the way in which he has left the edges rough to show the drips and smears of paint to display his working processes. I also liked the three dimensional illusions Miller achieves in which the hard edged patterns seem to leap out at the viewer from the flat backgrounds. Two paintings - In Shadows I Boogie, and Thought After Filthy Thought - in which Miller goes looser in technique, and more abstract with the paint medium appear to reference the looser painterly styles of the earlier abstract expressionism art movement. One Bar Electric Memoir continues to the 9th September.

Harland Miller: One Bar Electric Memoir
until 9th September
White Cube
Mason's  Yard
St James's