Geoffrey KixMiller at Appendix Project Space
Quick, let's play word association: "cheap." Nothing? Okay, linoleum." Yeah, grandma's kitchen floor. That's exactly what I was thinking. But evidently, that's not what Geoffrey KixMiller, Philly-based artist who is now showing at Portland's Appendix Project Space, was thinking. It took me ages to find this gallery—supposedly one of two "it" places to see art in Portland right now—but wandering in the dark through the backstreets of the Alberta arts district, I finally saw a tiny unlit alleyway next to a gym. At the back, about ten people were congregated, smoking and talking around a bonfire in the dark.
Appendix, which was colonized three years ago, is essentially a nice old garage done up with white walls and a grey-painted floor. A tall and reedy, blond Brooklyn native with a modest, slouching posture, Geoffrey KixMiller has lined the walls of the space with a series of enormous grainy blow-up photos with a snapped-in-the-moment aesthetic. Two of these have a small, bracket-supported wooden shelf coming out of the central part of the photo with an object placed on it that obstructs the view. There are couples, engaged in kissing with blurry backgrounds, unfocused light, and with an extremely personal quality that causes unease in the viewer—not to mention the pineapple or the vase of flowers on the shelf shoved in the middle of their faces. It makes you think Robert Doisneau wandering the streets of the East Village today shooting friends.
Haphazard, observational, random, and with an overall "happened-upon" quality, KixMiller's photography is lucid and intimate. A blow-up of a white cat walking in an alley against a faded-out brick wall really killed me because it was done to look like a photocopy and matted in such a way that it looks almost like an elementary school notice board. Mesmerized by this animal, I stopped for a minute to wonder why I didn't like cats; but then I realized this wasn't a cat, but a photocopy of a photograph of a white cat. It is this kind of removal from the mundane that KixMiller's work provokes.
According to the artist, his sculptures attempt to mimic the strange feeling of his photography but in another medium, creating a new character from the juxtaposition of everyday discarded objects. And he achieves this. In the center of the Appendix space, two found object sculptures mirror one another in their construction. KixMiller has mounted two boxes on top of each other with plastic poles sticking out of the top and a watermelon and a volleyball crowing each of them respectively. A random piece of fabric with a cheesy camouflage print has been thrown on top of one of them, looking accidental. The aesthetic is weird, cheap and urban, with the grey linoleum on one box evoking a take-out Chinese restaurant counter in Des Moines, and the watermelon, well, it's a watermelon.
"Swimming," ran October 27th to 30th 2011 at Appendix Project Space in Portland, Oregon.
by Kiera O'Brien