Wardell Milan

The ongoing series “Death, Wine, Revolt” explores themes of over-indulgence, destruction, and revolution.

Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present new work by Wardell Milan. The gallery’s second solo show of the New York-based artist will be on display in our gallery from October 29, 2020 to January 15, 2021. The exhibition features Milan’s ongoing series “Death, Wine, Revolt,” which combines photography, drawing, painting, collage, and sculpture to explore themes of over-indulgence, destruction, and revolution.

Here the mysterious host— raised in the South, now based in the North curates a gathering of friends seeking sanctuary, 2020
charcoal, graphite, oil pastel, pastel, cut and pasted paper on inkjet print, 51 x 60 inches (framed) [129 x 152 cm]

In several large-scale works, Milan uses enlargements of his own photographs of specific locations—the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King was assassinated, or the city of Venice—setting his images in dialogue with historical sites of racist violence or political rebellion. Populating the works are a range of human figures, often nude, whose bodies are pieced together from fractured drawings and photographs, and overlaid with blue and white paint. Some groupings suggest erotic coupling or violent encounters, and many arrangements are based on photographic sources. In 2020, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, Milan positions five figures in white Ku Klux Klan hoods against his own photograph of the city’s hills. The arrangement of bodies is based on a found image of a Klan social gathering, and presents the white nationalists in a bland, contemporary California suburb. In The Parade, the arrangement of figures echoes Diane Arbus’s Untitled (7), from her final body of work made in a home for the developmentally disabled in New Jersey.

The Parade, 2020
charcoal, graphite, oil pastel, pastel, cut and pasted paper on hand-dyed paper, 62 x 100 inches (framed) [158 x 255 cm]

Also on view are a selection of smaller works, including white-on-white cut paper collages depicting hooded Klansmen, and paintings from Milan’s ongoing series of tulips. While earlier flower paintings were inspired by the 17th-century Dutch tulip craze, the new works deconstruct the flowers, transforming them into chaotic arrangements of petals and leaves, hinting at the dissolutions the past year has wrought.

Untitled, (Tulip, Tennessee no. 5), 2020
oil, charcoal, graphite, pastel & china marker, 32 x 41-1/2 inches (framed) [81.3 x 105.4 cm]

Concurrent with the exhibition, in the third gallery, Milan has curated a selection of photographs from the gallery’s archives and beyond. The presentation, which includes works by Diane Arbus, Peter Hujar and George Dureau, is a collection of images that have inspired Milan’s own practice.

Wardell Milan speaks with Elena Gross of the Museum of the African Diaspora about how the pandemic has affected his work, what drew him to depicting the landscape, and how the work in his current exhibition, from the series "Death, Wine, Revolt," evolved.

Works on View

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