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Harland Miller (West Palm Beach 2023)

Harland Miller

All Night Meteorite

30 November – 16 December 2023


30 November – 16 December 2023


West Palm Beach

White Cube is pleased to return to West Palm Beach with a solo exhibition of paintings by Harland Miller. The universal themes present in Miller’s work – that of love (or its opposite), human psychology and the passage of time – naturally lend themselves to personal meditation, whilst simultaneously navigating the dissemination of ideas through recognisable semantic frameworks. This continues the graphic lyricism of the works in Miller’s 2022 exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey, London, in which the artist’s suggested narratives reflects his ongoing quest to express the ineffable human experience.

The works in this show inhabit a space between textual and visual narrative – a threshold that both invokes and, perhaps inexorably, yields to reflexive association, wherein ultimate meaning becomes a construct conditioned by the viewer. According to Miller, ‘if this is the case and there is engagement, I’ve found it’s initially of a personal nature […] it being somehow too relatable to an idea or experience to move beyond. I get that – and more than that, I like it!’

Framed by Miller’s epigrammatic titles, the works in this presentation implement the artist’s extensive reserve of cultural references, while making use of the saturated expanses and gestural abandon of mid-20th-century abstraction such as American Abstract Expressionism and the European CoBrA movement. The exhibition’s titular work, All Night Meteorite (2023) resonates with the cadence of a song lyric, melodically reverberating, as Miller describes, like ‘a chorus, disembodied from the verses’. Instinctively, this lyricism provokes interpretation. With its nocturnal palette of inky blue, cobalt and vermilion, the work conjures the sensation of gazing skyward in pursuit of a shooting star. Unfolding like an infinite diorama, its gestural strokes and flashes of cyan suggest the afterglow of a rare celestial event.

As objects that seem to proffer a symbiosis of image and text, book covers have become something of a hallmark of the artist’s practice. In this exhibition, Miller brazenly reimagines the covers of vintage psychology and self-help tracts. These books, with their thinly credentialed advice, seized a unique moment in post-war America, capitalising on the residual aftermath of anguish and hope – two emotions that Miller’s work consistently mines. In paintings like Reverse Psychology Isn’t Working and Psychotherapy: This Time It’s Personal (both 2023), Miller applies his own caustic twist on the covers, appropriating their formulaic brevity while challenging what Laura Miller describes as a ‘reduction of unrelenting optimism’ in her New York Times article. Complementing Miller’s catchy and rebounding maxims, the oblique imagery of the works assumes layered meaning. Controlled, elegiac scribbles take on Rorschach-like significance, while delineations of coloured lettering evoke synesthetic association.

A synchronicity between text and image is readily appreciated in 24.7 / 365 (2023), in which rapid bands of neon colour harmonise with the relentless, looping efficiency of the text. A common expression in everyday vernacular, ‘24.7 / 365’ carries within it the unfathomable vastness of time – a principle universally understood, yet attempting to comprehend its infinitude condemns one to an unsettling, inexplicable awareness of the unknowable. Depersonalised through abbreviated, elliptical precision, Miller’s work captures a distinctly American economy of words and fast-paced efficiency – an attempt to ‘bottle’ time, to control it. Visually, the works recall the typographic paintings of Ed Ruscha, with their vibrant lettering appearing perhaps to summon the cautionary ‘slow down’ missive of an electronic roadway sign or the seductive neon persuasion of a late-night diner. 

Miller deploys a similar sense of abstract gravitas in ESP Love Magnet (2023), an abbreviation of the alleged paranormal ability of extrasensory perception. Miller here plays with a notion previously explored in works like This Painting Bans Devils (2022) – the idea that a painting has the capacity to transcend its status as a decorative object, operating more in a manner akin to a mantra or a lucky charm. In Miller’s words, ‘I like paintings that claim to do things, which they probably can’t […] but promote the idea that something can be done, a painting that will make great claims for itself and its abilities’. ESP Love Magnet, with its interlocking geometries of colour and bold graphite lettering in the same hue as magnetic iron filings manifest the title’s aspirational thought into actuality. ‘I use ESP a lot,’ Miller remarks, ‘I don’t mean I use it in life, though I believe in it – here I mean it more as a reference to a song by the Buzzcocks, in which the singer seems to be using ESP to draw the object of their desire closer to them […] I had in mind that sense of impact or connection that happens in the last seconds of introducing a magnet to a magnetic surface, and there's that sudden very strong pull, right at the last moment that you can't resist.’

Miller’s dust-cover paintings suggest the very beginnings of a narrative: open-ended, complex and structurally cyclical, emerging from the ashes of another in their nod to previous titles or thematic variations of colour. In paintings such as My Safe Word Is More (2023), Miller leverages the open-ended permutations of words to challenge the pliability of intermedial, semantic association. ‘Apart from the very obvious sexual connotation,’ he notes, ‘there’s a kind of historical sense of words themselves not being safe and this painting goes against that.’

The works pull from previous series, bringing together elements of hard-edge geometric abstraction alongside freer gestural expression, which connect through the narrative suggested by the title. In Miller’s own words: ‘I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether it’s okay to play with the idea of not thinking about what I’m doing. Not to negate thought, but more to allow the subconscious to take over and riff on the ideas that are being suggested by the title, in that Jungian way […]’. The works in this exhibition explore how we burden things with import, bestowing meaning on that which we assume ought to have meaning, things like the titling of a book cover, a song lyric or a painting.

Harland Miller was born in Yorkshire, UK, in 1964 and lives and works in London. Solo exhibitions include York Art Gallery, UK (2020); Blain/Southern, Berlin (2016); Palacio Quintanar, Segovia, Spain (2015); Reflex, Amsterdam (2013 and 2011); Other Criteria, London (2013); Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (2012); Galleria Marabini, Bologna, Italy (2012 and 2010); LAB Art, Beirut (2011); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2009); Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York (2005); Fig-1, London (2000); Enrico Navarra Gallery, Paris (1995); Fakhoury Steinitz Gallery, Paris (1995); The Scotch House, Tel Aviv (1995) Louis XIV Gallery, Paris (1992); Prisunic Gallery, New York (1991 and 1990); Watermans Art Centre, London (1989); and Diorama, London (1987). Selected group exhibitions include Cornerstone Gallery, Liverpool Hope University, UK (2018); Somerset House, London (2016); Museum Esteban Vicente, Segovia Spain (20150; Hay on Wye, UK (2015); Fine Arts Society, London (2014); Jesus College, Cambridge, UK (2013); Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh (2013); Reflex Amsterday (2013); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2012 and 1996); Gallery Hyundai, Seoul (2012); Courtauld Institute of Art, London (2010); Galleria Marabini, Milan, Italy (2009); High Kelling, Norfolk, UK (2008); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007, 2006 and 2005); Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany (2004); Joseloff Gallery, West Hartford, Connecticut (2004); Richard Salmon Gallery, London (1996); and Alexander Roussos, London (1989). In 2008, Miller curated the group show ‘You Dig The Tunnel, I’ll Hide The Soil’ at White Cube and Shoreditch Town Hall, London.

Installation Views

Featured Works

Harland Miller

24.7 / 365, 2023

Harland Miller

Reverse Psychology Isn’t Working, 2023

Harland Miller

ESP Love Magnet, 2023

Harland Miller

My Safe Word Is More, 2023

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Harland Miller

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