Second-guessing, remorse, guilt—these are some of the feelings associated with a bad conscience, and they provide a context of sorts for Metro Pictures’ very fine group exhibition, organized by gallery artist John Miller. Each contributor is someone Miller has worked with, has exhibited with or otherwise admires. His own art is absent, but including it would have seemed redundant: The show itself, for which he designed a double-hung arrangement, is arguably a John Miller piece.
The exhibit’s tone certainly comports with his practice and his signature series of fecal-brown paintings and objects. Miller satirizes human failing, and our persistent embrace of anomie as it is metaphorically manifested by various forms of waste—personal, industrial and cultural. The works here (paintings, sculptures, photos, text pieces) express something similar: They’re representational after a fashion, but mostly they reflect the artists’ self-consciously alienated attitude toward their own art.
Thus you have items like Marilyn Minter’s starkly photorealist canvases of linoleum floors from the ’70s, appearing as unyielding and implacable as a hangover. Walter Robinson’s paintings of liquor bottles, stuffed bears and hamburgers enumerate various agents of dependency. Photographer Leigh Ledare’s granny-porn image of his mother is so disturbing as to short-circuit any reasonable response. And Aura Rosenberg’s photo portraits of artists’ kids (including a young Lena Dunham), face-painted to recall their parents’ work, ask uncomfortable questions about priorities.
Both formally and contentwise, these contributions and others seem to bounce off one another, pinging and ponging around Miller’s salon-style scheme. Meaning here is open-ended, which is what you might expect from a show whose title suggests, at best, complicated relationships with both the creation and consumption of art.—Howard Halle