New York Times, June 18, 2004
Art in Review: Rodney McMillian
By Holland Cotter
With the New York commercial art world operating like a corporate gift shop, alternative spaces, struggling for cash, become ever more important. Not that they deliver ''alternative'' art every time out. But at least they are far enough from the art fair merry-go-round to give projects that can't be categorized, and therefore hard to market, a shot.
Triple Candie in Harlem is such a space; Rodney McMillian's New York solo debut show is such work. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. McMillian studied with the conceptual artist Charles Gaines. And like his mentor, he infuses appropriated images and objects with enigmatic allusions touching on science, sociology and contemporary art history.
At the center of the spare exhibition is an installation of 53 mattresses and box springs that he scavenged from the streets of New York City and arranged in five sequential stacks of increasing height. Most of the beds are in decent shape, still covered with brightly patterned fabric, but some are badly stained, battered and torn. Piled up, they are like geological strata: urban life as seen through the furniture of sleep, sex and death, an entropic image Robert Smithson would have appreciated.
Nor is Smithson's the only art that comes to mind. A wall piece of floor-to-ceiling shelves in the show is like a functional version of a Donald Judd sculpture. The shelves are lined with used books: literary classics, self-help manuals and titles with topical currency (''Mr. Republican,'' ''Corridors of Power,'' ''Redemption''). Each sells for $2, with the gallery regularly replenishing the supply.
Add to these two pieces two others, a serial still life painting in progress and a filmed game of computer solitaire, and you have an exhibition that looks almost blandly static but is entirely about change and chance. Minimalism, the art of measurement, is a cash-and-carry sidewalk sale. Conceptualism, the art of wide-open ideas, is a hermetic play of the possibility of mathematical logic. And while the exhibition title, ''Untitled (ellipses) III,'' seems to point to Richard Serra's monumentally marketable recent sculptures, there are only anti-monuments in this quietly anti-establishment show.