Made In L.A. is coming to the Hammer, Barnsdall Park, LAXART, and billboards around town on June 2 and will showcase sixty emerging, under-recognized Los Angeles artists–one of which will be voted to win a $100,000 prize. In order to help you make an educated vote this summer, we’re counting down to Made In L.A. by showcasing each artist participating in the biennial.
Nicole Miller is a Los Angeles video artist whose work revolves around the African American male body and performance, technology, and the (video) artist’s process.
Miller is one of the new wave of great video artists coming out of USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts. Her videos are all about something but simultaneously about nothing, all pieces that suggest meaning but give no answers. A great example of this is her piece The Conductor, which was shown at LAXART in 2009. The piece sees seven minutes of an African American man in a blazer and Jimi Hendrix t-shirt placed before a yellow backdrop, where he gesticulates and makes various contorted, confusing faces. For the highly intelligent viewer, you’ll catch that this man is actually conducting an orchestra that is not there and, mainly, through his facial expressions. For the casual viewer, you’ll see the piece and go, “This man is crazy” and perhaps give a giggle and maybe recall the piece next time you see a homeless man rocking on a street corner. That is the complexity of Miller’s work.
Similarly, her piece The Alphabet raises similar questions but ties in her process and technology into the mix, something her more recent work has been tending to do. Pulling up various YouTube clips of African American males saying the alphabet on Sesame Street, she places them all against each other to point out the various performances of self in addition the performance of African American maleness. Richard Pryor hams up a comedic alphabet while Jackie Robinson recites it. James Earl Jones slowly pushes through the letters as Bill Cosby talks to himself about it. It’s very interesting and a “Things that make you go HMMMM.” piece that, tied to technology, inspires a little bit of a chuckle.
Miller’s work is really exciting: it’s fresh, it’s smart, and it asks a lot of the viewer while being visually engaging. It’s also very cool that she folds in her process so honestly, just showing her pointing and clicking and using her Mac to create her video pieces. There are a lot of video artists at Made In L.A. all doing very different things; however, we would venture to say that Miller is the most 2012 of them all.