"Annie Miller: I see london, I see france" at MoHA

This show in the Cage Match Project series casts the viewer as peeping Tom, looking through holes in a boarded-up trailer to view art

At a recent press conference, a reporter asked actress Isabelle Huppert how she managed to achieve a degree of eroticism without getting nude, to which she witheringly replied, "You have a very bizarre idea of eroticism." This understanding of eroticism as never the most explicit, but instead a titillating frame for desire, is drawn up in my encounter with Annie Miller's "I see london, I see france."

Miller's frame comes assigned, in a way. The show is "Round Nine" in the ongoing Cage Match Project series from the Museum of Human Achievement, wherein artists are asked to stage a show within a rusty industrial trailer parked in a lot, measuring 20 feet by 8 feet by 7 feet. For her part, Miller closes the cage off, leaving the viewer to encounter a boarded-up trailer that, at night, has a sickly neon glow. The viewer might approach with apprehension, uncertain of what is inside but nonetheless drawn like a moth to the light. Conveniently for them, and me, there are a few holes in the boards. Climbing up on a bench to peer through one such hole no larger than a golf ball, I press my eye against the wood only to see an eyeball staring back at me. I register it as my own reflection, blinking in a mirror positioned just opposite the hole. Trying another drilled opening further down, though, reveals a painting of a figure, rendered in vibrant blocks of pink and orange offset by tropical blue lines, hung on the back wall.

I count three of Miller's paintings on display in this manner, hung opposite peep holes in three little trailer chambers. They all use the same electric palette and show bits of bodies, abstracted and filling up the large canvases, arranged in blocklike segments. In one, a pair of limbs spreads before the viewer. In another, a pair of hands tuck themselves around a stack of blocks – one of which contains yet another hand, its thumb tucked into a mouth. Miller's bodies are recognizable, piece by piece, by nature of their composition, but this method of piecemeal comprehension is amplified by the limitations of the boarded-up trailer.

On the outside, a flurry of sketches wallpapers the "back" of the trailer, stapled into the wood. The sketches are obsessive studies, quick black and white line drawings of body parts. They seem an opposing but complementary offering to Miller's consideration of bodies, feverish and indulgent in contrast with the paintings' withholding carefulness.

Miller, with her lucky double double-letter name and a sing-songy show title, casts the viewer in the role of a peeping Tom, but does so with a playful naivete, at times leaving the viewer winking back at themselves as they fumble along the trailer trying to peer in. This exaggerated scopophilia works as a framing device for Miller's own ideas of eroticism – both frustrating and fantastic. Who- or whatever is the opposition in this cage match (the elements, the viewer, conventions of display), the round can only be called for Annie Miller.

“Annie Miller: I see london, I see france”

Cage Match Project Gallery at the Museum of Human Achievement
Through Jan. 31, 2019

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Museum of Human Achievement, Cage Match Project, Annie Miller

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