Paintings belong on the wall, and sculptures belong on pedestals, right? Maybe not, according to Adam Milner, whose current exhibition Public Sculptures is premised on spontaneous encounters with art — not in a museum or gallery, but in the spaces we least expect: those we frequent as part of our daily lives.
Curated by Cortney Lane Stell for Black Cube, the Denver-based, self-styled “nomadic museum,” the multi-site show features 13 sculptures by Milner displayed in unconventional locations throughout New York City. The artist’s vibrantly colored, variously textured assemblages are staged in places both unusual and mundane, from a tree stump at Green-Wood Cemetery to the shelves of a Brooklyn bodega.
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Visitors can find nearby sites and chart their own exhibition walkthrough using an online interactive map. Some pieces are easily accessible to passersby, such as “Untitled” (2019), a glimmering, cast bronze and conch shell sculpture on view in the window of New Express Tailor Shop in Lower Manhattan. Others require a little more advance planning: “Pink Cookie Museum Display” (2021), for instance, is attached to the collar of a dog named Oh Papa, who lives in Gramercy Park. (To see the work, text the artsy canine’s owner, Starlee, at 323-380-1456.)
While the choice of sites may seem discordant with traditional exhibition spaces, Milner rejects the notion that they might be wacky or unlikely places to view art.
“These are all normal places for art to happen. It doesn’t feel as strange to me to put a sculpture on a car or on a dog. Most of these places are already have art in them — a bodega might have something behind the counter or hanging on the wall that’s there for art purposes,” the artist told Hyperallergic.
“For me, it’s also a reminder that I don’t view the gallery or a museum as the end point for my work. I think about it as more fluid, as moving through the world in a strange way that’s hard to pin down,” Milner added.
Milner, a previous Hyperallergic contributor, has often examined the effects that place and context can have on the impact of a work of art. In an installation at the Andy Warhol Museum, Milner dispersed a selection of personal objects among the intimate possessions of the artist held in his archive — a pair of pink briefs, a dental mold — to unearth hidden connections. Public Sculptures was born out of Milner’s desire to breathe new life into works made during the pandemic by taking them elsewhere.
“Part of it, for me, is to let the sculptures have a different setting for a while […] to let them sit next to different things than they would normally sit next to in a gallery or a museum and let them absorb that,” the artist said. “The green velvet sculpture in a bodega next to bright cans of Pringles becomes an interesting context.”
“Then it hit me — it’s really the people who agreed to partner with me who see the works the most, the tailor at the shop who sees this little sculpture every day,” Milner added.”The works can be really quiet and unassuming, and they intersect with all these different audiences. I liked this idea of dispersing them, and making a solo show that didn’t feel too grand.”
Public Sculptures is on view in selected sites across Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan through August 15.