GEROLD MILLER. what do you represent
by Edelbert Köb
Unique Selling Propositions Gerold Miller’s work is visually concise and packs a thematic punch, both to a great degree. This is a good thing, because being inimitable is a phenomenon intrinsic to Western art and an important goal that only very few artists in this world attain to. And as we know from numerous sources, it has always been this way. In any case, long before the “disclosures” of Rosalind E. Krauss on the cult of originality and the original in modern art. A belief in the possibility of “a beginning from ground zero, a birth”1 was, however, completely lost during the eighties at the very latest. Afterwards, questions concern- ing the criteria of (relative) originality become considerably more complex, also because the second basic feature of the avant-garde, “the rejection or dissolution of the past,” has to- day given way to what is for the most part a respectful treatment of heroic figures and achievements of the past. This especially applies to those artists who, for instance, in answer to Roger M. Buergel’s rhetorical question on the occasion of Documenta XII – whether modernism was still our antiquity2 – would, like Gerold Miller would probably do, answer that it’s not a barren, depleted field of reference, but still contains an abundance of incomplete ideas, games that have not been played out to the end, promises that have not entirely been kept. Why, for example, should what Minimal and Conceptual Art, Hard Edge et cetera presented in direct succession to the modern artists of the 1950s and 1960s already constitute the end? Or let’s recall the glorious never-ending story of the monochromes for all those who still harbor doubt. The triptych Red, Yellow, Blue by Rodchenko was already made in 1921. The end of painting was proclaimed for the first time. Thirty years later, Rauschenberg made his White Paintings and Yves Klein the Superficie bleue, once again seemingly final statements – but they merely founded a new discipline. Over the next two generations, artists such as Marioni, Umberg et cetera dedicated their life’s work to art’s most reduced discipline, monochrome painting.
And so modernism’s discourses will not be concluded for a good long while, even if a belief in the autonomous, heroic act of creation has become obsolete. In any case, this belief has, in the course of a gradual economization of culture (as we continue to wait for a corresponding culturalization of the economy, as promised), been pragmatically replaced by a demand for unique selling propositions. In marketing and sales psychology, the term “unique selling proposition” (USP) is given to an outstanding feature that makes one product clearly stand out from the competitor’s. What can be inferred from this for art, the subject of the present discussion? Even subtle differences and refinements in things that are basically already there can become, as with monochromatic painting, USPs if the images created possess such visual power and aesthetic memorability that a corresponding repetition brings about the desired recognition effect. Something truly new can only be expected from the modernists of postmodernism in new constellations of content and form.
As early as 1967, Clement Greenberg said referring to the theme of innovation: “We all realize now that in avant-garde art, extremity pays off the most in the long run – and what could be more extreme than randomness?”3 But what is random, when all art is no more than a claim anyway, as the critic had to admit in resignation even back then. Even in his wildest dreams he never would have been able to imagine the mere existence of certain variations of today’s so called “expanded concept of art.” In its own way, every era poses the question as to the definition of the non-random, which only the legitimate can be. And it clearly emerges when an artist creates a brand, as Gerold Miller has done with his “Frame Objects,” formations between painting and sculpture for which there is no overarching term, or at least none that he’s found or still looks for. In any case, since around 1991 Miller’s work has occupied a theme or perhaps a “unique selling proposition” in the long term: its ongoing focus on the motif of the frame scares off any potential imitators and makes it “capable of defending itself against competition”4 – not only because he has pursued it with dedication, but also because the visual dominance of his frame motif is evidently powerful enough to assert itself as a recognizable constant even within the topological variety of his previous work series. Not that there haven’t already been many other attempts in recent art history to distance oneself from the overused painting on can- vas without entirely giving it up as a fact or reference. In other artists’ works, however, the motif of the frame has remained a mere episode, an interlude – usually limited to painting in a more narrow sense. On the other hand, Gerold Miller has successfully made something that in contemporary painting has increasingly grown obsolete and irrelevant – the frame – the main subject of his art. What could be interpreted as a mannerist limitation in content, as a constructed innovation calculated from a marketing point of view, has today proven to be an ongoing source of inspiration and stimulus for the artist.
Prelude It’s no accident that in nearly all texts on Gerold Miller, the early group of works, the Anlagen, form the point of departure and center for the authors’ various considerations – even when the focus of the accompanying exhibition or catalogue is on newer works. Evidently, there is a broad consensus that this is where the legitimization of his entire oeuvre lies. This is not meant in a moral sense, but proceeds from the notion of a work that is consistent within itself, from a committed approach, and finally from Miller’s own ideas on the matter. This is proven by the works themselves, whose individual, clearly differentiated series are anchored through their clear, stringent inner logic in a system of references to recent art history. Miller’s method is conceptual, analytical, rational. It demands cognitive participation on the part of the viewer and for this reason can be evaluated according to its own premise. This applies most of all to the minimalistic Anlagen with their sparse visual messages.
Greenberg, the great analyzer and guardian of non-objective art’s requirement of purity – but unfortunately a lousy prognosticator – classified, in 1967, almost all of the new artistic phenomena of his time and, looking back, some of the most important artistic phenomena of his time as “variations of novelty art” with Minimal Art5 its most extreme version. Today, Minimalism is a force in recent art history, its influence on the art of the second half of the 20th century to the present day has been enormous and unabated; it also left a mark on the young sculptor Gerold Miller. In his early works with primary structures, he developed – or rather, the intrinsic logic of the process gave rise to – the motif of the frame.
The earliest works known to me from catalogues are delicate open metal constructions from Miller’s student days: racks, supports, also frame like ones, with shorter and longer rods protruding asymmetrically and at right angles into the space. They gravitate towards the rectangular and, partly due to the narrowness of his studio at the time, above all to the wall, at first only leaning against it, then placed at eye level. In a delicacy resembling drawing, welded rods and square tub- ing occupy the space to its full height, width, and breadth. Individual protruding parts point into space, which lends the sculptures a sense of the unfinished, the fragmentary. More and more reduced, increasingly moving towards “interior drawings” while losing their outer forms, these works progress in the direction of clear frame constructions that initially resist anything in the way of imagery. The formal effort in the sculptural and spatial differentiation of the rectangular constructions according to the principles of tension and equilibrium is so explicit that the works should without a doubt be classified as reliefs. Precocious, sensitive post-minimalist, one might say, with an evident propensity for the frame motif.
The Subject As a young man, Miller still felt bound to the modernist principle that one should avoid any kind of experience that is not fundamentally rooted in the respective medium. This not only means doing without illusion, but above all subject matter. He had already transgressed this dictum of purity in 1988, with Oranger Hänger; starting in 1991, with the Anlagen, the “sin” became a habit to be savored sensually. While Anlage 1 (p. 139) still hovers ambivalently between construction, showcase, and drying rack, its successors give the viewer little recourse but to associate them with a frame or picture display. The decision in favor of the picture/frame theme was now a definitive one.
It’s entirely possible that the first time the idea of the image became explicitly sculptural came with the placing of Große blaue Konstruktion and the two equally large frame sculptures Ohne Titel in the outdoors in 1989 and 1990 respectively. The crucial experience of seeing how the frame constructions encompassed and visually incorporated real motifs like landscape and architecture in an outdoor situation set a process in motion that would gain momentum in 1990 during his studies in Chicago, the motherland of Minimalism and the grand gesture. The ensuing radical simplification of his formal language and the reduction of sculptural details in the work series Anlagen, which were no longer individually titled, but numbered in sequence, suggests this. Their extreme formal simplicity highlights the content and the question of the objects’ meaning, of course. The problem of form becomes
precarious in an entirely new way now, because form and con- tent are no longer identical.
“Anlagen,” the title chosen for this group of works that paved the way for a future development, is ambivalent; this ambivalence is entirely intentional in that it refers both to the works’ content and formal attributes. According to their definition, “Anlagen” are generally devices or facilities, in the present case for the reception of pictures to protect and ennoble them. If we subject the Anlagen to closer scrutiny, we see that they usually consist of a very simple, basic rectangular construction with one or several similar construction elements added or welded on in symmetrical or asymmetrical manner. The materials used are square tubing of varying dimensions, strip iron, and angle sections. Using these few parameters, Miller works through a variety of proportions in the frame motif and utilizes various different combinations in construction (attached bluntly, mitered, joined with a panel) towards an allusion to the box form (through flat “slats” added to the inside of the frame construction, which is set on edge). Here, at the very latest, the field of associations is expanded to include the container or, depending on context, the box or painting crate. Anyone familiar with the reverse side of a canvas will think of a stretcher upon seeing the first crossbeams, which divide the interior horizontally or vertically, (apparently) stabilizing the frame construction with cross supports. These suspicions give way to certainty with the horizontal and vertical “stays” in a square grid, as in Anlage 38 (p. 143). Thematically, the work comprises a complete set of subjects: painting and accessory.
Virtual, Frameless Picture Objects In a catalogue of earlier works from 1995 6 with a focus on the Anlagen of the years 1993, 1994, and 1995, an author wrote that these were “entirely dependent on context in a Duchampian sense. If one were to see them lying around out- side of an art context, one would erroneously take them for window frames or some sort of building parts. But as soon as they hang on a wall, they pose questions about painting.”7 Dependent on context: this they are without a doubt. But the monochromatic “Anlagen” of this time certainly do not pose questions about painting. These works address questions concerning the image and the concept of image, in other words purely ontological questions regarding the picture object, its volume, and its relationship to the frame and to the wall. Painting is that which happens later, materially within a limited format (or perhaps one should use the term “excluded” in regards to the wall and the viewer). The premise of the sculptural Anlagen is the virginal picture object, so to speak. And even when the sculptor Miller began painting, his dialectical partner remained the classical, frameless canvas – now, however, with an entire spectrum of what can come on top. But more on that later.
A Paradox When, in these early works, the artist lays unequivocal claim to a section of the wall or a segment of the space, he poses, as discussed earlier, the indirect question: to what purpose? And we are called upon not to guess blindly, but to wager a plausible supposition.8 For the inventor, however, the activation of cognitive processes on the part of the viewer intended by the artist only functions with those (informed) viewers that are accustomed to seeing a picture not (exclusively) as an illusory surface of reflection or projection, but (also) as a material
object, as volume. The reference here is to modernist paintings that are frameless for varying reasons. Can one imagine framing the boundless space of Kasimir Malevich’s White on White (1917), the cosmic radiation of Yves Klein’s blue, or a large scale all over painting by Jackson Pollock? Because they show their third dimension, however, such works mutate into objects and hybrids between painting and sculpture – with ramifications for art that should not be underestimated, also for the art of Gerold Miller.
The history of the frameless painting goes surprisingly far back in time, which is not yet common knowledge. Due to the history of painting of the past fifty years, one can nonetheless expect that at least the so-called specialized public has absorbed the existence of the image object, its corporeality and consequently its ambivalence regarding sculpture and architecture. The artist was able to count on this. Thus, in the sculpturally defined framework of the Anlagen, everything subjective in the way of imaginable painting can be projected onto the works, but the discussion remains limited to pure image objects, the monochromatic at the very most, in dialogue with the coloration of the frame sculptures. In their minimalistic austerity, the way the steel Anlagen are built already makes other notions seem obsolete.
We find ourselves confronted with a veritable paradox here. As frame-like delimitations of imaginative spaces, the Anlagen refer to image objects that themselves do not require a frame, and for which a frame would be contrary to their very nature. And the reference works because the viewer’s consciousness, or more precisely his subconscious already seems indelibly branded with the obsolete duality of image and frame.
Speculations One interpretation of some of these early work groups and individual pieces of the Anlagen is somewhat atmospheric: they contain emptiness itself, either in the existentialist sense of Giacometti, whose early figure Mains tenant le vide (L’Objet in- visible)9 holds it between his open hands, or in a positive sense, as the total sum of all available possibilities. But Miller took another approach, the metaphysics of a Barnett Newmann,10 for instance – the formal nature of whose work was not all that far away – being essentially foreign to him. Apart from this, the “disappearance of the image” and “the end of painting” would have been interesting and plausible variations in interpretation in lieu of their evocation. In any case, installation- based exhibitions such as the 1996 show in Winterthur (p. 45) or in Ravensburg in 1997 (p. 93) point in this direction: through an aesthetic placement of the Anlagen at eye height according to the classical practice of hanging paintings, with a finely differentiated calibration according to wall and spatial proportions. This not only conjures up the provocative notion of a painting exhibition without paintings, but also, in the case of the larger formats, quite vehemently addresses the architectural organization of the walls.
Color Enters the Game The formal strictures that the artist imposed upon himself with the Anlagen are severe in a challenging way. Accordingly, the possibilities of variation are endless. The Anlage 59 of 1995 marks a first attempt to open up the game in a significant way. It’s a simple frame with a vertical beam in the middle. Now, however, he reveals the crusty welding seams on
the corner connections that were previously burnished away. In doing so, Miller points to the handcrafted fabrication of his sculptures, which were previously covered in a single uniform layer of paint. But this remains an isolated case. Made the same year, Anlage 58 (p. 149) is the first work of its kind, but its type was continued. It’s a frame covered in dull metal made from metal slats that are laid flat and not, as before, on their side. This is the most primitive, but also most honest form of frame construction, in a formal sense a degree zero. Miller contrasted this with a move that was rather surprising for this phase: he allowed the matte black paint applied to the two side slats to flow downwards according to gravity and the material’s inherent laws and leave traces from the friction.
While up until this point the paint merely served to neutralize the material, it now appeared in its own right. And what were the ensuing implications? These seem far-reach- ing and become evident in a comparison with Anlage 121 (p. 47). A simple frame construction as already described is now “grounded” hastily with a rough brush, each slat in one continuous brushstroke. The light color on the darker ground, which is visible from underneath, reveals a noticeable texture; due to the schematic and to a certain degree pragmatic method, however, it does not bear an individual signature. Similar to the previously described random paint formations, according to Miller’s unwritten laws these textures also had to be generated exclusively through the pure painting process in order to preserve the work’s objectivity. In a certain sense, Miller once again allows the provisional element, the unfinished character of some of the early works, to come to expression, albeit in a completely new way. Opposing the minimal! But the essential thing is that, despite this “transgression,” the frame continues to remain a frame (a grounded one now) and calls for the picture (for which reason these “groundings” are soon discontinued), whereas the “pourings,” as I’d like to call them, can, as innovations, be classified into numerous variations. Both color and painting itself enter the game here, albeit in a purely process-oriented way. This not only breaks the stringent nature of the constructions; their autonomous presence calls the former immediate reference to painting into question. Doesn’t the function of the two cross beams, which are no different in a painterly sense, seem to be to keep the two vertical “color objects” on the wall in position? Is this “proto-” or “
” not equivalent in its presence to the minimalistic form carrying it? If this is the case, then we are for the first time dealing with a hybrid between painting and sculpture in a real and not a fictive sense. In any case, these works anticipate later ones, although still in an indecisive, probing way. Thus, the exclusively subdued, duller hues leave little room to unleash painterly energies on the delicate constructions.
The first Anlagen are from 1991; the catalogue of works lists 174 of them. A relatively detailed analysis of this group of works, which is impressive both in terms of quantity and quality, seeks to prove that in this period Gerold Miller already addressed virtually all of the basic questions and problems that he explored in his subsequent work, formulated them on a very high level, and answered some of them in a convincing way. For this reason, their continuation in the developments that followed, which have already been extensively reviewed and published, will remain brief.
The Same Ingredients – New Frames of Reference In 1998, the first ready-mix works suddenly appear (ready-mix 1, p. 205): perfect, elegant anodized aluminum objects from a new aesthetic world, but still clearly frames. In a topological sense, it would be difficult to think up a different term for them: reduced to the lowest common denominator they are frames, that is, frames without any additional qualifications, i.e. mirror frames, picture frames et cetera. This in no way means that they are neutral in terms of their references; obviously, it’s their system of reference that is different. It would be interesting to learn the occasion and cause of such a move, which must have disoriented experts and the public at least somewhat. But Gerold Miller leaves the interpretation of his work up to the professional interpreters and gives them a generous (and imprudent) carte blanche. Artists are often wont to offer helpful hints with their work titles, but Miller refrains from this. Despite this, let’s take the artist and title literally and ask: what ingredients did he use in his ready-mix? We already know the basic ones from the Anlagen: color and painting, object and sculpture, wall and space, two- and three-dimensionality, in and of themselves basic ingredients that are not always easy to combine, but that have already been corralled into a fascinating dialectic exchange through the frame and picture theme. Paintings are flat, while frames have depth; they hang on the wall and in the space respectively. This already unites the two key problems of modernism. The ingredients have remained the same to this day; only their proportions are varied in hard:edged, total object, instant vision …
The ready-mix series comprises only 32 works, not least due to the limited palette available for anodizing the aluminum objects. The word ready in the title can also mean that the “mix” is done in a certain sense, and can’t really be changed anymore. Indeed, apart from color and size, there are almost no other variations in this series. But the word might also hint at the serial fabrication of the works, which are no longer made by hand. As of recently, the pieces were delivered in a finished state; the artist now delegates.
The balanced interplay between the ingredients painting, relief, sculpture, and architecture lends the ready-mix a quiet, self-evident presence. We forget that this series introduces an important shift in the work’s development, a radical change in reference. The material aluminum, the manufacturing technique, and the perfection of the shiny surfaces lead us into the world of machine and industrial production, into the aesthetic field of technology, design, and architecture. The frames, equally thick throughout, bent outwards and inwards in varying degrees on the corners, evince a high degree of autonomy and anonymity. Accordingly, the coloration is deter- mined by the production firm’s color chart. The references at the heart of the ready-mix and the subsequent series that continue to the present are based on design’s formal language of the 1950s and 1960s, but can only be seen as a kind of fashionable retro style when they’re viewed in a superficial way. The artist, who has taken a decisive step into the present here, has certainly not intended this. His new formal vocabulary, familiar to us from everyday experience, is timeless instead of nostalgic; it does not primarily arise from formal aesthetic considerations, but rather technical and physical strictures and developments in material and manufacturing technology on the basis of ergonomics and aerodynamics.
The persistence of reality unavoidably carries impli- cations for interpreting the frame function. When a direct reference to art is absent, it is automatically replaced by the visual imagery of our time, for the most part moving images perceived from a moving perspective or in motion per se, as in film and television: rapid, fleeting images caught through a car window, the portholes of planes and ships, on television screens and monitors. The formal characteristics of the frames, devices, and coverings containing these images are a part of our collective memory and are prototypically inherent in the shapes Miller’s objects take. As clear symbols of the flood of imagery, a key feature of our contemporary experience of the world, the ready-mix could today easily hang on the walls of schools, public offices, and pubs, just as the cross or portraits of presidents once did. In this regard, ready-mix a1 in the entrance hall of the Grand Hyatt in Berlin is exemplary. As installation photos from galleries and semi public spaces show, in this regard these pieces easily hold their own every- where, even on red walls and wooden paneling.
Interlude: Art Historical Reference After the ready-mix proved to be incapable of further development in a technical and formal sense, Miller once again re- activated the art historical context with his series hard:edged of 2000. Miller’s hard:edged is the Hard Edge of the 1960s, taken literally. Harder than Hard Edge itself, hard as metal, so to speak: only a few clear, hard colors, rigorously separated from one another or, more precisely, placed alongside one another, the result of a rationally generated process devoid of emotion, just as the definition Hard Edge calls for. The effect is further intensified by the perfection of the high-gloss surfaces. Interestingly, these objects, once again rectangular frames, do not conjure any pictorial notions, despite or perhaps be- cause of the clear reference to painting in the title. They’re far too much the autonomous sculpture for this, too strong in color, too dominant. They pass unequivocally as painting replacements because they leave no desires open; the only thing they leave open is their center.
The hard:edged arise as individual monochromatic, symmetrical objects that are then varied in series, hung either in rows of the same and different sizes and colors or closely together as identical formats in varying colors, placed above one another, doubled, multiplied. Now, compositional acts (the variation of the ratio of the part to the whole) can only take place on the wall. Standing alone, the objects show only themselves and the confident assertion of their presence. Their capacity to be grouped together as similar pieces or to generate a dialogue among disparate works, however, is enormous. In a kind of apotheosis, modernism’s formalist self-referentiality is pushed to the extreme here – without that wink of the eye, without the irony of a postmodern eclecticism. In all seriousness, Miller ups the ante.
Mutations With the appearance of the total objects in 2003, we see a continuation of the ready-mix with expanded means and a greater degree of freedom, total freedom so to speak. “Total” is, of course, a relative term in respect to Miller’s strict work concept. The fact is that the total objects marked the beginning of an experimental phase that continues to this day and whose constants are the sculptural rectangular shape rounded on the corners, preferably in square form, and, of course, the frame motif.
At first, only the shape is manipulated: cautiously, but with remarkable results. The frames are widened horizontally, vertically: a minor intervention, but with a huge effect! The object mutates first into a pictogram of a computer screen, then a monitor (total object 52, 53), and then the letter O (t. o. 30). Associations to the frame are now of secondary nature; perception shifts from the painting or art reference in the direction of design, logo, and sign. This is further underscored when, around 2005, the central opening shifts diagonally to the lower right (t. o. 53). The first works in the series instant vision also date from 2005; their hallmark is a round opening, initially shifted only from the middle downwards. The effect is not only one of overwhelming neutralization and even deactivation of the frame function, but also the creation of asymmetrical surfaces that in turn call for a balancing of tension and a restoration of equilibrium. The prerequisites for painting are finally given as the open inside shapes grow smaller in favor of the remaining surface area.
Hybrids If, up until now, it was merely a matter of color, painting now enters the equation in a narrower sense: initially only in its most rudimentary, process oriented form, using rough experimentation to produce “painterly” surfaces both on the raw, untreated sculptures and the monochromatic, enameled ones. The textures created in this fashion are more or less generated by chance, either through a machine or by attaching it to a car in motion. They bring out the object nature of the total objects in an even more pronounced way than the high-gloss enameled monochromatic surfaces (t. o. 82, instant vision 52, 53).
Later, the artist repeatedly tries out similar processes, such as oxidation. After apparently shifting the center of his objects permanently, the artist’s main interest, however, is now directed at compensating the ensuing asymmetry by means of color field painting. This marks an end to a mere flirtation with painting and a step from the colored sculpture towards a true hybrid between painting and sculpture. A con- sequence of this, of course, is that the classical problems of non-objective painting become crucial for the sculptor, albeit in limited form in that the themes hybrids present are to a large extent prefigured, if a hybrid is understood to be the creation of something symbiotically new. Painterly form can only arise out of a dialogue with the sculptural form; it takes on a new dynamic component through the shrinking and shifting of the inner shape away from the center. Removed from the center, imbedded and enclosed by a form now experienced as a surface, the central opening undergoes a change in meaning in the direction of window, opening, gap (t. o. 53). As a result, the viewer’s attention is drawn to the inside shape instead of the outside, the frame, as was the case in all the earlier series. This inner shape becomes a center of compositional energy and the point of departure for countless deliberately futile attempts to restore the old frame order of centeredness and symmetry. Miller visualizes this process, which can also be imagined in temporal terms, through the enlargement, repetition, displacement, layering, and superimposition of the inner frame form in all directions. In doing so, he unleashes powerful impulses in motion and spatial dynamics; these, however, are easily absorbed and contained by the external form, which is highly robust due to The rounded corners (t. o. 125).
In his instant visions, Miller follows a similar strategy as in the closely related total objects. These also derive their tension from the frame motif or the notion of a frame that also leads to the idea of a painting. From the outset, how- ever, the artist allows the reduced round shape, which has slipped downwards, to return to the center. To this purpose he reserves a round area whose siTe makes the remaining surface shrink back to a frame. In the tondo, the overlapping rotation and expansion phases of the round form become visible towards the center of the object. These can be read as an opposing shift and shrinkage. The ensuing suction effect and illusory depth of field is immense, magnified as it is by the actual opening (instant vision 63).
Still No End in Sight In both series discussed here, the sculptures’ actual spatial situation is pitted against the illusory space inherent to painting. This is the logical result of a formal consistency. The sole use of painterly forms that become legitimized through sculpture, such as a rounded-off rectangle, square, and circle, automatically lead to spatial layering in combination with the frame theme. Hence, the premises have to be changed for a new game, the repertoire expanded. Miller succeeds in this by employing a simple trick: he eliminates the rounded edges on the inside and creates new points of compositional reference with the four corners. Once again, Miller picks up on the latent energies of the inner form, which has been pushed to the lower right corner. He underscores its tendency to reconquer its original position with areas of color applied diagonally in the corners. This gives rise to a rotation that suggests the square’s movement back into the center of the picture. Thus, the artist not only achieves a charged equilibrium within the sculpturally generated asymmetry, but also liberates the color that was previously trapped inside the frame and can now unfold undisturbed to the perimeter. This will to give color space could also be the reason the artist chose a very large format for this type of total object, which, because of its unique nature, warrants its own term.
Size, of course, also intensifies the presence, a quality often and justifiably attributed to Miller’s works, and that has also been attested to in this text. Presence is what remains when everything else is forgotten that has been written about a work. On the non verbal nature of his discipline and language’s limitations in this regard, Ad Reinhardt said “Art is art. Everything else is everything else.” I would counter that, and not merely because many books have been written about Ad Reinhardt, with this: Anything that nothing can be said or written about is certainly not art. Much can be written about Gerold Miller. This text examines only the main avenues of his sculptural and painterly investigations, exercises, and experiments on his hybrids, which operate according to a plan but are not systematic. It has hardly addressed the color and quality of the surfaces, the art historical references have only been partially approached, and the inclusion in current art contexts has been left out altogether. These are extremely important aspects! In any case, however, the undeniable presence of his total objects cannot be explained or conjured in words.
Summary Today, after more than thirty years’ continuous development, I am not only impressed by the oeuvre’s significance, which is owed to the obdurate pursuance of a theme that is at once
striking and seemingly limited, but above all by its persuasive inner logic and diversity between the extremes of austerity and opulence. A closer scrutiny of the works reveals, despite the self-imposed restriction, a variegated game with and against the modernist canon11 which one hesitates to call postmodern – not only because of the term’s misuse, but particularly in view of the architecture of the 1950s and 1960s. Compromised as it is through the randomness of the practice, the term postmodernism, at least in the definition provided by the Oxford English Dictionary,12 seems accurate in all respects for Gerold Miller’s work. All too often, however, one of the features listed – “a general mistrust of theory” – serves as a legitimization for a dull anti-intellectualism and/or a simple lack of education. In contrast, Gerold Miller’s work is one of the most reflective, unique, and distinctive contributions to his generation’s open critical dialogue with the Modernist repertoire of ideas – beginning from here and the present day.
1 Rosalind E. Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, Cambridge, Mass./London 1986, p. 157.
2 Around 1900, modernism replaces antiquity as art’s main frame of reference. Buergel’s question addresses the end of modernism’s role as the frame of reference for contemporary art.
3 Karlheinz Lüdeking (ed.), Clement Greenberg: Die Essenz der Moderne, Dresden 1997, p. 364 (translated).
4 Wikipedia on the properties of unique selling propositions.
5 Lüdeking 1997 (see note 3).
6 Renate Damsch-Wiehager, in: “Gerold Miller,” Ostfildern-Ruit 1995.
7 Ibid, Brian Muller, p. 45.
8 “supposition (n): the act of supposing (…) assumption.” American Heritage, Boston 1985.
9 Alberto Giacometti, Mains tenant le vide (L’Objet invisible), bronze, 1934. A female figure metaphorically holds emptiness between her open hands.
10 For Newman, abstraction not only meant a consistently reductive process, but also the spiritual manifestations of form and color.
11 “canon: the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art.” Webster’s, New York 1989.
12 “postmodernism: in architecture, the arts, literature, politics, etc., any of various styles, concepts, or points of view involving a conscious departure from modern- ism, esp. when characterized by a rejection of ideology and theory in favour of a plurality of values and techniques.” Oxford English Dictionary online.