Rodney McMillian’s work grapples with the complexities of class, race, and place in America across a wide range of media. His video narratives explore events and figures who tend to be omitted from conventional historical accounts. Employing elements of performance, public speaking, and oral history, McMillian exposes the social and psychological consequences of economic inequality, the racism endemic to America’s political and institutional landscape, and the failed promise of freedom and prosperity for all of its citizens. Importantly, he has also spoken of—and in certain works explicitly demonstrated—a personal interest in the genre of science fiction: while his work engages the often stark realities of history and contemporary culture, it is motivated by the potential for alternative realities and future transformation. The three recent acquisitions on view represent the last decade of the artist’s work in video.
In Untitled (The Great Society) I, McMillian not only stages a performance himself reciting President Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 commencement speech at the University of Michigan, but also occupies it as a black man. In doing so, he raises questions about how history and politics are themselves consistently—and repeatedly—performed. In A Migration Tale, an unrecognizable (or unnamable) character clad in a silver Ultraman mask and floor-length black cassock travels on foot and via subway. McMillian references the “Great Migration,” during which thousands of African Americans left the rampant racism of the South for the promise of a better life in northern states, makes a condensed version of this northward journey, in the guise of an anonymous, ominous, and absurd character who goes unnoticed by those he encounters. Preacher Man grapples with questions of religion and the fight for racial equality in the United States. Dressed in a traditional black suit and tie and wearing a hat, McMillian sits formally on a chair in an empty field cast in shadow and recites words of the once Chicago-based experimental jazz composer and musician Sun Ra.
Rodney McMillian. Still from Untitled (the Great Society) I, 2006. Contemporary Discretionary Fund.
21 hours 17 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Abstract Experiments: Latin American Art on Paper after 1950
During the mid-20th century, Latin American artists were active in the evolving international discourse on modernity, at a time of industrial expansion and political transformation in South America.
Abstract Experiments provides an illuminating complement to Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium and reflects the Art Institute’s recent efforts to expand its holdings of Latin American painting, sculpture, and works on paper.
1 day 15 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago NOW OPEN—Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium
The Art Institute presents the first U.S. retrospective of this groundbreaking Brazilian artist. A relentless innovator always pushing the boundaries of art, Oiticica is arguably the most influential Latin American artist of the post–World War II period and is recognized for inspiring Tropicália, a powerful movement that influenced art across media in Brazil.
In addition to viewing his early works on paper, visitors are invited to take off their shoes and walk through immersive sand-filled installations, view Amazonian parrots, and try on wearable objects designed by the artist.
1 day 16 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago Whitney will be taking over our Instagram for the next 24 hours. Follow along to see posts from Max and Julien’s visit to the museum.