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McAlpine Miller: A Glittering Universe of Pop Fiction

 

  McAlpine Miller, Playing the Field Too, Oil on Canvas, 127 cm x 101 cm, courtesy Hoerle-Guggenheim, New York  

 

By JASMIN HERNANDEZ, MAR. 2016

McAlpine Miller makes a dazzling US debut at New York gallery Hoerle-Guggenheim with his series of photo-realistic, multi-layered paintings were he pairs supermodels with pop culture iconography. Having worked steadily over the last twenty years, Miller demonstrates a refined, heavily stylized approach which investigates American pop culture - and global culture - beyond just the surface. In the midst of living in a time of immediacy and self-gratification, Miller probes and interrogates the driver behind commercialism and superficiality. A Scottish native, and a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art (1990), the Neo-Pop realist showcases twenty-four, oil-based works in his eponymous exhibit at the Chelsea gallery. Having worked steadily over the last twenty years, Miller demonstrates a refined, heavily stylized approach which investigates American pop culture - and global culture - beyond the just the surface. Upon first glance, the paintings seem to resemble digital collage or photo illustrations, his painting gestures seem to mimic Photoshop layers found in a PSD file. Iridescent, translucent, and visually loaded.  But on closer inspection, what appears to be photo illustrations, are in fact stunning oil canvases containing models and classic cartoon motifs seamlessly blending together in subtle hues and complementary shades. Miller has previously described this concept as ‘fading one idea into another’.  Although the works serve as ready-made content for the Instagram /Snapchat era, there seem to be deeper societal issues that the artist is tackling. In the midst of living in a time of immediacy and self-gratification Miller probes and interrogates the driver behind commercialism and superficiality. 

McAlpine Miller, Save Me From This Feeling, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 112 cm x 86 cm

Miller has cited Warhol as a major influence and source of inspiration, and although their aesthetics differ, there are obvious parallels in their approach to celebrity culture and mass consumerism. One can also draw comparisons to fellow Pop Art legend Mel Ramos, who masterfully combines women and iconic advertising propaganda. But Ramos is more rooted in accentuating the female form, inserting eroticism, and making specific classical art history references, whereas Miller’s focus is on  questioning society’s views on beauty, success, fame, and self-worth.

McAlpine Miller, Seeing is Believing, Oil on Canvas, 92 cm x 66 cm

Two delightful works that stand out include: ‘The Right To Remain Silent’ and ‘Best Medicine’, where Miller exercises a strong use of color - an intoxicating mix of Pantone shades of fuchsia, carnation pink, periwinkle blue, and violet - and pairs a European female archetype with the feisty, Hanna-Barbera street character Top Cat. The tongue-in-cheek titles of the works add to the playful nature of the compositions as well. In ‘Save Me From This Feeling’, a Lily Aldridge-esque model poses coquettishly while superimposed imagery consisting of stars and stripes, a Popeye comic book title and other retro cartoon elements interact in a frenzied manner. ’Seeing Is Believing’, is an explosive mix of feminine power, a raven-haired female subject is juxtaposed against cartoon favorite Betty Boop and the comic book heroine Wonder Woman. Miller similarly toys with these concepts in ‘Star Struck’ with the inclusion of Supergirl. ’Land of the Brave’, presents a fascinating mix of ingredients - the US flag, a sexy model resembling Chanel Iman, and the beloved Disney characters Daffy Duck, his nephews Huey, Duey, and Louie, and their  wealthy great uncle Scrooge McDuck - could perhaps be translated as an ode to American capitalism and the public’s obsession with materialism. 

McAlpine Miller, The Focus of My Attention, 2016, oil on canvas, 92 cm x 77 cm

Miller displays a nostalgic, heartfelt love for Americana and it’s finest - including celebrated film and music icons Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Elvis Presley and even Miley Cyrus - yet equally infuses British history and culture too, like the revered Winston Churchill, venerable filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, fashion icon Kate Moss, English folk hero Robin Hood and the classic Union Jack flag. Incorporating these personalities illustrates the cross-cultural impact they hold on both sides of the Atlantic (and globally), and speaks to the amiable relations the US and UK have endured over time.  

This marks McAlpine Miller’s first show in New York (US), having previously been included in the recent group show ‘Figurative Abstractions’ at Hoerle-Guggenheim earlier this year. Miller completed a two-year stint as an artist-in-residence at the historic Savoy Hotel in London, where he absorbed the property’s storied past to produce new works. Additionally, Miller was commissioned to participate in a recent tribute exhibition honoring the soccer legend Pelé at the Halcyon Gallery in London. Other high profile commissions include working on Sir Paul McCartney’s tour, and collaborating with commercial mega-brands at top advertising agencies. 

McAlpine Miller: Solo Exhibition will be on view from March 9-30 at the Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery in New York City. WM

 

 

Jasmin Hernandez

 

Jasmin Hernandez is a native New Yorker with a deep passion for visual culture and a rich background in fashion, editorial and digital media. Ms Hernandez is the founder of Gallery Gurls where she covers the contemporary art world and also regularly freelances for digital outlets. Visit Jasminhernandez.com and gallerygurls.net Instagram and snapchat: @GALLERYGURLS

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