Transatlantic Exchange

Works by native Texan Jeff McMillan and Englander Cornelia Parker, who met while Parker was a 1998 ArtPace resident, explore themes of relocation, transitoriness, and exchange. Their work is on view at Finesilver Gallery through April 10.
A Texas expatriate and a transient Englishwoman explore relocation

Native Texan Jeff McMillan and Cornelia Parker from England met in San Antonio and moved to London six years ago, and both artists transform found objects in ways that can't help but reflect their own relocation narrative. Using found objects, their subjects inherently include chance and location. While McMillan's cardboard boxes suggest moving in a humorous understatement, Parker physically relocates objects.

McMillan takes brown cardboard boxes and works them into minimal, yet highly colorful objects that slide between painting and sculpture. In his process-oriented approach, McMillan splays open box lids and dips each side or flap into a solid color of paint. Once dry, these transformed objects hang on the wall like paintings with full bellies. Color dominates the objects as two shades each of blue and green appear, at least four of brown, punchy orange, red, and foils of black and white. The colors are frank and unblended. Each dipped side is covered, or covers, another with a lip of pant that slightly juxtaposes the other. McMillan says viewers can use this evidence of method and sequence to follow his process.

Jeff Mcmillan & Cornelia Parker

& by appt.
Finesilver Gallery
816 Cameron
Dipping relates more to ceramics than painting. Unfired pots are often dunked in buckets of glaze, leading to chance accidents as the pot is turned upright and glaze spreads. McMillan also promotes chance as his paint dries mid-motion, leaving creases of paint bumping along. Sometimes this happens on the outer edges of splayed lid flaps, but it also occurs as the boxes' means of support react with paint and gravity, creating an intersecting diagonal of raised pigment that looks like an envelope's folds. While paint loudly covers the boxes, cardboard quietly infiltrates the paint through this recognizable pattern.

McMillan tries to deter viewers from seeing crosses in these splayed forms but they are reminiscent of Kasimir Malevich's "Black Cross" from 1915, an unapologetic simplification of color and form. Although McMillan hangs the boxes on a decidedly horizontal axis to shake the religious reference, their width is still in direct descent from Malevich's abstract composition.

McMillan's works, however, have the added third dimension that makes them appear different from every angle. The viewer walks around, stoops, and stands on tiptoe just to see all the colors, never encompassing them all at once. The viewer's need to take in all sides is what defines the objects as sculpture. One all-brown composition, "Buster," is positioned away from the wall altogether and rests directly on the floor. The very real fear of squashing it reminds the viewer of its modest cardboard underpinnings and sets it apart from more traditional sculptures.

Cornelia Parker, a 1997 Turner Prize nominee, met McMillan during her 1998 ArtPace residency. Her work here tells their story by playing off found objects relocated between England and the U.S. She finds simple treasures such as belt buckles, toy soldiers, and Roman coins collected by metal detecting enthusiasts and grouped into lots for sale on eBay. She buys the objects from England and buries them in America and vice versa. As evidence, original framed advertisements are displayed below digital scans of the grouped objects they

describe. To create these images, Parker set the objects on a scanner and inserts new backgrounds - sometimes blurred newspapers, sometimes an endless black pitch. Shadows are eerily removed and, as a result, the objects seem to be falling through space. In a poetic way this hints at their transitory nature. Like one-hit-wonders, they are beautifully photographed discoveries that go underground again, anonymous.

Elegance is an understatement when describing Parker's two sculptural installations that continue the theme of found objects. Again, metallic luster pervades the work as Parker chose silver coffee pots and musical instruments to juxtapose into reflections of one another. In "Alter Ego," an American coffee pot is full-bodied and intact while a once-similar, now flattened, British coffee pot juts out like a perpendicular shadow. Parker calls this its "pale reflection," and the impact of these objects which, by the way, are suspended in mid-air, is overwhelmingly beautiful.

The hovering, dreamlike quality evoked by Parker's work is a perfect segue to her use of dirt from Sigmund Freud's London garden, used to create translucent, amoeba-like images that are housed in panes of glass like abstract anti-narratives. The continued relationship between gleaming surfaces and dirt is similar to McMillan's contrast of high color and humble cardboard. The two artists present challenging and arresting work - one especially frank and one more appropriately embedded - that makes them a good match. •