Walling: Containing Architecture
Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is pleased to announce Walling: Containing Architecture, an exhibition of paintings and sculptural installations by Tom Miller. The opening is Friday, September 27th at the gallery, 435 South Guadalupe Street, across from the rail station, from 5:00-7:00 pm to coincide with the Railyard Arts District Last Friday Art Walk.
Tom Miller’s recent work moves beyond his figurative references to a universal concept of the wall, as in fences, as in border walls. Walls are used to divide and separate, and Miller creates elegant paintings that speak to this issue. Miller notes that border walls and fences have proliferated dramatically in the last decade. From the 2002 Separation Barrier in the West Bank, which on the Palestinian side is double the height of the now removed, Berlin Wall, to the barbed wire fences between Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, symbolizing partition and marginalization, walls are being built with the supposition that the people on either side will be safer and more secure. In the US, our border wall between Mexico and Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California is a symbol for many of America’s discriminatory immigration laws. Walls and fences may not in fact make good neighbors but rather reinforce an exclusionary social policy.
Robert Frost’s poem, The Mending Wall addresses the effects of walls. He says, "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out / And to whom I was like to give offence." Miller asks us to question what our purpose is when we create a wall.
In the painting New Standard (white), the wall is under construction with I-beam supports in place. The wall is created by very thick acrylic paint and surface textures. Miller’s monochromatic palate comes in black, white or gray which references truth and specificity. The use of monochrome reinforces the viewer’s need to move in closely to see the imagery. By using a forced perspective and symmetry to establish structural limitations, the artist provides us with a metaphor to analyze and think about the political conditions of today.
An installation of an actual wall, fabricated panels and I-beams out of plywood, resin and paint, creates the experience of a border wall within the gallery exhibition space, reminiscent of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc which created such public outrage in lower Manhattan in 1981. The experience of dividing a plaza in two by placing a colossal sculpture in that space, led to a historic public outcry from workers and residents of the area, and eventually the work was removed in 1989. Such is the power of walls to divide people.