A.B. Miner: Bring to Light

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by Robert Moeller

There is a specific kind of uncertainty on display in A.B. Miner’s paintings and drawings. In part, they stem from the exploration of a physical geography that is both fully mapped and stubbornly unknown. The work unfolds in curated episodes of confessional gestures that are meant to unveil what remains hidden or private. Where Miner starts is with the portrait of a small girl. He ends up is with a remarkable depiction of a diverse assortment of butterfly penises.

In between, and likely the most important here, is not only what Miner chooses to expose, but the ways in which the viewer might decide to approach the work. The artist’s main subject here is the irascibility of gender, issues of turmoil and confusion, and ultimately contentment.

A distinctive narrative tracks through the exhibition, and it is a fraught with hard-won truths. Even in the case of the renderings of the butterfly genitalia, which Miner used to explore the varied notions of masculinity, the penises are exposed by dissection. Cutting here represents exploration and the science of discovery. It has little to do with the pain of the incision. Rather it is more about being informed. The science, as in the case of the butterflies, is about diversity and the upending of traditional notions of gender and sexuality. Indeed, the insects have an amazing assortment of different types of penises, which are hidden away and which Miner playfully names in Latin, the language of science. Here too, Miner cloaks each painting in another layer of information that needs to be worked through, as suggested by the exhibit’s title

To a degree, what’s rendered is similar to what you would find in a biologist’s notebook. It is a study in and of itself, but also a primer for larger questions—a point of reference, yes, but ultimately a placeholder for more significant, yet-to-come investigations.

The self-portraits Miner has made arc along similar lines. There is a sketch-like quality to the work that suggests a temporary or transitional moment. What’s here is emotionally and physically still an unfinished transaction, and the objectivity in which the artist depicts himself is rough, blurred and honest. The power of the work resonates from what’s unseen and unspoken, even as it strives to reveal. The beauty, pain and complexities that Miner unfurls are simply moments that are part of a larger inquiry, both objectively placed and personal.

His (2) is a painting in which only the artist’s back and the side of his face are visible and his eyes are either closed or focused inward. This work concentrates the viewer’s attention on what look like marks left by bandages recently on his back. Clearly the body’s landscape has been altered or is perceived to be. The wispiness of hair ranges across the back and down an arm. A beard begins to thicken across the artist’s face. Beneath the growth, the area is activated by shading that could indicate several things, all of which Miner presents without additional visual information. His head twists, too, not averting the gaze of the viewer but not engaging either. It is a confident gesture underpinned with uncertainty, and that uncertainty has little to do with what the artist expects from the world but rather what the world might offer in return.

What’s most interesting about Miner’s work is not what he reveals about himself, but instead on what he asks you to reveal about yourself.

A.B. Miner: Bring to Light
Gallery Kayafas
450 Harrison Avenue #47
Boston, MA
Through November 29, 2014


Image Credit: His (2), 2014 20×16″ oil on gessobord ©A.B. Miner. 

Robert Moeller is online content coordinator for Art New England.

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Posted by: Art New England review by Robert Moeller    On: Nov 21, 2014 4:10 pm

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