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The Electrostatic Man: The Art of Miller Horns
January 27, 2017 @ 5:00 pm - March 18, 2017 @ 4:00 pmFree
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve is proud to present its exhibition The Electrostatic Man: The Art of Miller Horns, Miller’s inaugural show as an Archived Artist. The event will be celebrated with a campus-wide opening on Friday, January 27th, 2017. 5:30 – 8:00pm held in conjunction with the Sculpture Center and David E. Davis Studios.
Miller Horns (1948 – 2012), an Akron artist and community activist, is known for his innovative, autobiographic prints created with a combination of electrostatic technology (Xerox), thermal-heat-color-transfer and lamination. Horns often worked in large scale, tiling together many smaller copies to create life-size images of people, animals and everyday objects. While electrostatic art has existed since the 1960’s (sometimes referred to as “Copy Art,” or “Xerography”), it is this grand size, as well as Horn’s ability to produce a wide array of textures and vibrant colors that make his work unique.
Miller’s subject matter varies widely- from warm reflections of daily life, to intimate emotional confessions and historic documentation. Frequent themes include meditations on grief, love, the production of art, race in America society and the often-overlooked contributions of African-Americans to the development of Northeast Ohio.
Horns studied Commercial Art at the University of Akron and earned his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 1989, Horns was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants as the recipient of the prestigious Rome Prize Fellowship and lived at the American Academy in Rome for a year. Miller was also awarded a residency at McDowell Colony in New Hampshire and was a guest artist at the historic Yaddo artist community in New York. Horns completed numerous public commissions including murals for the Akron Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the Maple Valley Branch Library in Akron, Ohio. The last sixteen years of Horn’s life were spent in raising public awareness and support for his design for The Matthews Hotel Monument in Akron Ohio. This public monument, built in the year of his death, commemorates the former African-American entertainment district of Howard Street which played host to such famous entertainers as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald.
Horn’s choice of technique was as much informed by his delight in technology as it was by his difficult financial circumstances. Though it was true that Miller, in his own words, was “as much interested in invention as…in art,” after a debilitating heart-attack, he was forced to survive on a severely limited income. The use of the electrostatic copy fulfilled a double purpose: feeding his insatiable desire for innovation and technology and providing a low-cost mode of creation.
Mindy Tousley, Executive Director of the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, where Miller’s work is archived, and former acquaintance of the artist, described it as such: “Miller had very sophisticated ideas and limited economic means. He was using whatever was at his disposal as a means of production.” That just happened to be the photocopier at the corner office store.
Miller was not satisfied to use the “Xerox” as a mere tool for reproduction. He altered the replication process extensively, manipulating scale and setting layer upon layer to produce life-like texture and dazzling tones never dreamed of by its inventors. Adjusting through experimentation, Miller would work and re-work an image, almost to the point of obsession- sometimes taking upwards of 6 months to produce a final piece.
The results are remarkable: a combination of abstraction and realism where dream-like images are constantly dissolving into, or reconstituting out of, memory and imagination. The finished artwork was irrefutably original- what Miller referred to as “An Electrostatic Painting.” Miller’s work was never a cold duplication or sterile copy, just as Miller’s vision of life was wholly unique unto itself.
As Horns described it, “Art is just life. It’s what I do in a day. It takes in everything. It’s not just my working with a photocopier. And every day is different. It’s not repetitious by any means.”
As part of this exhibition and Black History Month AAWR will present a “Collecting Art Talk” by David Lusenhop centering on African American Artists. These talks are part of our new 2017 Art Bites programing, and are designed to help promote the idea of art as an economic engine. The goal of “Collecting Art Talks” are to stimulate the local economy by pulling together artists, art collectors both new & experienced, curators, art historians, art dealers and gallery owners. The Collecting Art Talk: Collecting African American Art with David Lusenhop will be held on Saturday, February 18th, 2017. 1:00-3:00pm at the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve.