Rodney McMillian is multidisciplinary artist working in sculpture, painting, performance, and video. Born in South Carolina, McMillian has lived in southern California since 2000 where he teaches at UCLA. The artist shapes his work around the socio-political history of the United States even through abstraction. At first glance, many of his works appear to be a continuation of abstract expressionism in its layered flow of paint. For these works, like abstract expressionists of yore, McMillian pours and drips paints. Nevertheless, on closer inspection, the works appears to suggest a map or landscape and thus, the history of struggle and power inherent to mapmaking and landscape painting. Who makes maps and for whom? What does a flag represent? Who owns the land and at what cost? What happens in that land? Furthermore, in using household paint, thrift store clothing, and other industrial materials, McMillian mines issues of economy, accessibility, and even temporality as the materials are inherently unstable and non-archival. The monumentality of the works makes the viewer more aware of their own body and in Flag, the “post-consumer item” of the suit and sheets further emphasizes the human body, particularly of black bodies, while layering additional meanings of loss and of home.
McMillian notes, “History is present tense. It’s present for me.”
McMillian has had solo shows at SFMOMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, St. Louis Art Museujm, Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, PS 1 MoMA, Studio Museum Harlem and has participated in the Sharjah Biennial and Whitney Biennial. His work is in public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Hammer Museum, LACMA, LA MoCA, MoMA, SFMOMA, Studio Museum Harlem, and St. Louis Art Museum.