New York

Brenda Miller

The Clocktower

Like Morris, Brenda Miller connects her cognitive idea with its physical realization. Her four grids, drawn on the wall in light blue pencil, are filled in with stenciled letters in ordered sequence. Each grid is a 52 x 52 unit square, allowing, for example, the stamping of two complete sets of the alphabet from A to Z and Z to A in the horizontal rows and the consequent repetition of single letters in each vertical column. However, this patterning is only clearly visible at the terminal A and Z points, for Miller shifts her stencil and reprints on top of the original structure in successive layers. The central areas of the image become consistently denser as the repeating letters accumulate and the stencil wears out, letting the gray blue printing ink bleed through. Variations in the original layout and pattern of the overlying shift account for differences in the final images of the four works.

The stenciled letters inevitably recall jasper Johns’ work, but Miller is more concerned with the interplay between conceptual logic and perceptual ordering than between literality of flat sign and illusionism of painted image. In this respect, the parallels are closer to Sol LeWitt’s earlier work. Looking at Miller’s pieces, one first arranges the information in terms of tonal values. On closer inspection one apprehends the conceptual framework underlying the perceptual structure. The mediator between the two—the physical process of translation from idea to image—then assumes importance. Although the rules of construction are stipulated beforehand, it is the physical articulation of that formula which defines the image. What one sees becomes contingent on its making, on the transformation from ideal into actual existence.

––Susan Heinemann