A History of Man is an investigation into the traces left behind by bodies — bodies of humans, of other animals, plants, and things. This collection of new works explores a longing to understand these bodies, to organize them, archive them, preserve them. Adam Milner, known for his rigorous and regimented documentation of his personal interactions through performance, archives, and drawings, steps back with this new work to look more broadly at stains and body matter. Boundaries break down and categories blur as to what defines a body and where it begins and ends.
Milner uses his own blood in Letting, a blood-saturated bed sheet placed on the floor, its crumpled shape alluding to a body. In a pair of large drawings, the artist again mines his body for this valuable material, plotting the blood in delicate and vibrating rows of tiny dots. The works are documents of their own making, traces of private performances and processes which consumed the artist’s time and body.
Other works in the exhibition include fragmented figures — lips, a braid of hair, a small penis, gaudy acrylic nails, false eyelashes, a mannequin hand. The collection of artifacts is riddled with tension: neither male nor female, not fully natural or unnatural, human and also not, simultaneously incomplete and redundant (eight eyes, fifty teeth), complexities and nuances are elucidated that are usually ignored in historical accounts. The bodies, desperately sourced throughout the city through a kind of daily performance, contrast with other works, comprised of material culled more intimately from the artist´s bedroom: the artist’s eyelashes and belly button lint, mosquitos and violet blossoms.
Historia del Hombre, an extensive series of children's comic books from the 70’s designed to teach a world history, is the source for the title of this exhibition. The illustrations are staggering in their masculinity: pages upon pages of men (either shirtless or fancily dressed), shouting, pointing, waving around sheets of paper, crossing bodies of water, and piercing each other with bullets, arrows, or swords. And there are few women depicted at all.
A work tucked away in a corner, a small window with a fluttering curtain, gives another option of how to be. With its title(s) A Gentle Breeze, The Perfect Man, we see an existence that is in every way opposite of the destructive nature depicted in the books. The context of these books reveals the show's radical tendencies: sensitivity, longing, and a welcomed kind of uncertainty.
Adam Milner (b. 1988, Denver, USA) has exhibited at the Aspen Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, David B. Smith Gallery, and has an upcoming project, Remains at the Andy Warhol Museum. He currently lives and works in Pittsburgh as an MFA candidate at Carnegie Mellon University.