PRINT January 2010



For decades, John Miller has been recognized internationally as an artist and critic whose work continually unpacks the claims of the day’s prevailing artistic approaches—to say nothing of the seemingly inexhaustible detritus of culture at large—but only this past fall was the breadth of his own production put on display in an incisive survey. Artist MATT KEEGAN offers his take on the ruins, mannequins, paintings, and photographs recently on view in Miller’s retrospective at the Kunsthalle Zürich; and for a specially extended version of Artforum’s 1000 Words feature, Miller speaks about the installation’s unique staging of his artmaking over the years.

View of “John Miller,” 2009, Kunsthalle Zürich. Foreground: A Refusal to Accept Limits, 2009. Background, from left: A Powerful Prayer, 1994; Untitled, 1986.


DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS, Howard Street in New York City’s SoHo has gentrified rapidly, but Canal Street, one block south, is a different story: It is a sea of T-shirt merchants, questionable stereo and jewelry stores, and roving counterfeit-handbag vendors. John Miller, whose studio is on Howard, once noted to me that a business on Canal that sold anything of use was sure to close. These days, Canal Plastics seems to be the only thriving nonbootleg operation on the block. Lee Lozano said it best in one of her drawings: XANAL ST. THE ASSHOLE OF N.Y.

I was Miller’s part-time studio assistant from 2004 to 2008 but realize only now just how important this neighborhood was to the work he made during that period, even if this significance manifested itself in two entirely different registers. On the one hand, Canal’s abject excess was mirrored by Miller in a group of works

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