Propelled by the visible and invisible forces that shape experience, Rodney McMillian’s work weaves elements of United States social and political history, the body, and architecture into complex tapestries entrenched in myth, memory, storytelling, and historical texts. The artist was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1969 and earned his BA at the University of Virginia, later moving to Los Angeles, where he earned his MFA in 2002 from CalArts. The cultural landscape of Los Angeles, with its rich artistic community, combined with McMillian’s sharp perspective on current U.S. politics, anchors his practice today. Since the early 2000s the artist has explored the social and cultural implications of political acts through painting, sculpture, installation, and performance—both live and filmed—using himself as protagonist, proxy, and test subject.
For the inaugural exhibition of the Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, McMillian exhibits an immersive installation on both floors of The Contemporary Austin’s downtown Austin site, the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, located just a few blocks from the State Capitol. Bifurcated into the colors of white on the first floor and black on the second floor, the exhibition continues the artist’s formal inquiry into painting, abstraction, and performance with a discomforting social critique of American histories, injustices, and structures of power.
The exhibition will feature a full-color catalogue published by The Contemporary Austin in conjunction with Radius Books, Santa Fe, New Mexico. The book will include essays by Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator at The Contemporary Austin and organizer of the exhibition; Adrienne Edwards, Curator at Large at the Walker Art Center, Curator at Performa; Bennett Simpson, Senior Curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Cherise Smith, Associate Professor of Art History and African and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Functioning as a history of McMillian’s performance-based work to date, the catalogue will also serve as a record of his exhibition at The Contemporary Austin.