Gerold Miller: Flat space sculpture (2005)

Marcus Bering
artdesigncafé - art | 15 September 2009
This article first appeared in Sculpture magazine, 25(1), pp. 36-7 in 2005.

Is it sculpture? Is it painting? Or is it design? Gerold Miller’s work explores the borders between minimal object and conceptual context— a zone where sculpture, framed surfaces, and sculpturally and visually defined architecture meet. His empty frames of the “hard edge” and “ready-mix” series in aluminum and lacquer rigorously investigate the basic prerequisites of what we perceive as “an image.”

From “total objects” to his recent series “Instant Vision,” Gerold Miller has long been fascinated with the phenomenon of reality at its most striking, its most vivid, when you approach it from the non-objective and most minimal angle. Industrially fabricated, his work reflects the fragmented, fast-paced, and beautiful, hard and precise world of design, luxury cars, fashion, and lifestyle. We as spectators are now left alone to fill these free interior and exterior territories with our own reflections, expectations, and projections.

The German artist has exhibited extensively in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. His recent solo shows include “Get ready” (2002) at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; “for your eyes only”(2004) at the Rocket Gallery, London; and “Instant visions” (2005) at the Mehdi Chouakri Gallery, Berlin. Over the past two years, he has presented work in group shows in Brussels, Paris, London, New York, Detroit, Capetown, and Auckland.

Marcus Bering: You create mostly flat objects. How do you see the relation between space and sculpture?

Gerold Miller: Today we often perceive reality through a screen with flattened perspectives or as a frontal display. I think that this sort of “flat space” is the right way to reflect our age, which is dominated by information and communication. In recent years it has become more and more important for me to elaborate this thin line where three-dimensional sculptural space turns into surface.

Marcus Bering: So your installations work like extensions of a computer screen, like simulations?

Gerold Miller: I always plan my work as site specific, very carefully using drawings and models, but in the end you also have to give way to chance. Chance sometimes makes the better decision. For example, take Riverside Wall at the Mehdi Chouakri Gallery in Berlin. For that I gathered some “hard edge” works that I had already shown in different galleries and institutions. At the gallery I unloaded them from my car: first the big ones, then the mid-size ones, and finally the small ones. I immediately understood that this is how they had to be presented.

Marcus Bering: But in other cases, it is more calculated?

Gerold Miller: In my solo show at Hamburger Bahnhof, I installed a color progression from white to dark gray against the wall, closing off the space. This was important to create the right perception of the space: I needed the non-colors to balance the colors in the show.

Marcus Bering: You also use non-colors in public sculptures. Like the one in Stuttgart, at the Maybach Center of Excellence.

Gerold Miller: At the same time as my solo show in Berlin, I made a wall work, similar to a classical frieze, running from the outside of the building to the interior. The installation consists of 21 panels progressing slowly from black to white. They are all treated with the same high-gloss enamel used for the Maybach cars.

Marcus Bering: What is the work about?

Gerold Miller: It’s about imagination, about traveling, about the unique elegance of the whole place. But it is also a minimal architectural intervention. I do not want my wall work to compete with the greatest work of art at the Center of Excellence, which is definitely the Maybach itself. My installation is rather the setting for the Maybach: the car is the sculpture.

Marcus Bering: How did you start on your artistic journey?

Gerold Miller: When I was a boy, I found some conventional oil paintings in my parent’s house. I exchanged the signature and sold them as my paintings from a small stand that I made in the garden. This was a very serious thing for me. Even now, I take my role as an artist in society very earnestly. But my work is about existing images. That’s why I am creating without wanting to add additional or new images.

Marcus Bering: What about imagination?

Gerold Miller: Fortunately I do not have any influence on other people’s minds. They can imagine whatever they want.

Marcus Bering: Sometimes you collaborate with designers?

Gerold Miller: Yes. At the moment I am working with Gerwald Rockenschaub on an exhibition at a gallery run by a team of young graphic and fashion designers. The space is located in a Soviet-style complex in one of the new hot spots in Berlin-Mitte. It is rather curious to see how different things work together, the communication among images, people, and things. It is an urban experiment.

Marcus Bering: Does this relate to your recent work Instant Vision?

Gerold Miller: I want to get closer to reality. Instant Vision is an important step in that process. The frontality of the pieces reflects the tendency of our visual culture to display objects and to aestheticize surfaces. Their perfectly enameled surfaces are so shiny that they reflect images from their surroundings, over which I have no influence, while their colors— chrome, silver, and neon— are artificially unreal. They overlap abstraction, artifice, and reality.

Marcus Bering: What is your next project?

Gerold Miller: Actually it is traveling. But first, I have to continue with a new project. After almost 15 years, I have started a new series of paper works. I am making collages with bits of torn and cut paper on silver foil. For the first time, chance is not only an element of perception, but also an important part of the process of making the pieces. I like the quickness. They have a fluidity, a suspension that smiles with gentle indifference on all forms of discourse and meaningful significance.