Art Review

Andy Miller: new work

As an outsider, I've been worried about Pirate (3655 Navajo Street, 303-458-6058), the once-funky alternative space that during the past quarter-century became one of the city's key art institutions. To put a fine point on it, the problem is the low quality of exhibits. Did anybody catch the anniversary show this past winter, in which all of the members were represented? More than half of those Pirates should walk the plank.

One artist who should definitely stay on board (or abandon ship and bolt across the street to Edge) is Andy Miller. A conceptual artist, Miller typically creates abstract narrative sculptures presented as coherent installations, which is what he's done for the self-titled show Andy Miller: new work, at Pirate through this weekend. The exhibit is made up of wall sculptures and a single floor piece (pictured). The items are covered in vinyl, and most have neon components, a combination Miller has used before; unlike in his earlier work, though, here he's also used prosthetic devices as prominent elements.

The prosthetics Miller employs are of two types, thereby splitting the work into two phases. The first is represented by vintage mechanical legs, the second by new plastic breast implants that are ordinarily inserted after mastectomies. These medical appliances are not neutral, and they lend the work something of a horror-show quality. The legs add a realistic element to otherwise minimalist objects, while the implants are formally consistent with that minimalism.

Difficult topics are a Miller specialty, and in the past he's taken on such themes as suicide and abortion, so I asked him what these latest pieces were about. "All my work runs along the same line, having to do with the frailty and delicate balance of life and what people are able to survive and live through," Miller says. "My 'suicide' pieces were about mental loss; these are about the physical loss suggested by the prosthesis."

Since Pirate's reputation has slid, fewer people have seen Miller's exhibit than should have. But it's not too late: Hurry over before Sunday, May 6.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia