Artwork details

4.24 light years away
Acrylic and ink on bedsheet
289,56 x 205,74 cm
Rodney McMillian

Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.


4.24 light years away, 2016
Rodney McMillian is one of several artists in this exhibition who explore oppression and racism from the point of view of an African American background. These works come from the series Landscape Paintings, where McMillian reinterprets the landscape paintings of the Hudson River school, which in his view present a romantic account of Western expansion in the 1800s. The landscapes represent nature as being untouched, without what McMillian refers to as “bodies and blood”. Today we know that these “untouched” landscapes were the scenes of violent conflicts, where the indigenous people were persecuted and killed by the colonists.

In an ongoing series of paintings, called Wildseedling, McMillian brings the bodies into the landscape at a metaphorical level through works in which previously used bed sheets, which bear the traces of a corporeal and intimate sphere, are painted with impasto brushstrokes in layers that suggest flesh and blood.

The motifs symbolise a fragmentary body that is a painterly abstraction of body parts and bodily fluids. Thus he both deconstructs and further develops the art historic representation of the body by focussing on the violent dimension of flesh and blood. Several of the titles, such as 4.24 light years away, refer to the idea of an intergalactic sphere, and were inspired by the Afrofuturist texts of Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delaney, who describe alternative life forms and galaxies as a means of escaping from the Western power to define the African American body. The title, Wildseedling, is taken from Butler’s novel Wild Seed (1980) which describes two persons of African origin with supernatural powers that can escape their own bodies by transforming into animals or other people.


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