Gerold Miller (b. 1961, Altshausen, Germany) is known for the consistency with which he has developed, over the years, an unmistakable minimalist and conceptual poetics focused on exploring the countless possible interactions between the space (real and fictitious) of the work and the visual perception of the viewer. Trained as a sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, since his early days he has focused on creating object-frames poised between painting and sculpture made of aluminum and coated with lacquer or industrial enamel. His works are often described as rigorous, geometric and rationally designed to activate the surrounding space through a calibrated synergy of light and color. If, at first glance, one would be tempted to associate the formal reduction that characterizes them with the radical compositional essentiality of Donald Judd, the sensual irradiation of color in the environment seems rather to place them in an intermediate position between these and Dan Flavin, for whom neon is a module to be articulated in potentially infinite series that enter into a critical relationship with space.

In Miller, too, we find the use of simple recurring forms that relate to the architectural context in which they are distributed while highlighting their structural specificities, combined with the emphasis on the color-light nexus intended as a tool for the poetic metamorphosis of a given environment. In the case of the German artist, it is not a question of a true emanation of light from the sculptural elements, but of the effect of calculated color combinations and abstract figurations that in each individual piece create illusions of depth and multiplication of planes even in the unexceptionable flatness of the drafts. The slight mirroring property, due to the lacquering, that unites all the surfaces by equalizing the intensity of saturation, moreover, induces one to read the succession of several works as a chromatic scanning of the space in which they live, from which the viewer feels both welcomed and repelled because of the evanescence of the reflection they return. This effect is the result of maniacal attention to the quality of the paintwork and impeccable workmanship of the materials, operations that are commissioned by the artist from specialized industrial workshops, with very high production costs. It is precisely the perfection of execution and the complexity of the production process that mark the radical difference between Miller’s practice and that of the fathers of historical minimalism, whose vocation for synthesis he seems to reinterpret in the light of aesthetic solicitations coming from the visual habits established by the digital.

A further perceptual ambiguity is also found if we dwell on the morphological aspect, regarding which we can observe how the proportion between the various modules that make up the works (and each installation as a whole) seems to refer to the multiples and submultiples of a scale that, although unrelated to any stated reference, comes spontaneously to refer to the human dimension. This is perhaps the main reason why Gerold Miller does not conceive of his works as self-sufficient objects, but always imagines them in relation to a real environment which he himself experiences before beginning a new series and which constitutes the prerequisite for that special intersection between sculpture, wall surfaces and painting to which the multiplicity of the figurative problems he addresses can ultimately be traced. The wall, then, (like the three-dimensional space in which the sculptural works are placed) instead of being an impersonal display support, enters fully among the basic elements of the work, as shown by the preparatory cardboard models with which from the outset he plans in every detail the mutual correspondences and interconnections between works yet to be executed and preliminarily summoned by him in the form of mental presences.

It seems clear at this point how, although it is always fascinating to encounter one of his enigmatic works at fairs and exhibitions, to fully experience the perceptual subtleties of his poetics it is far preferable to access one of his site-specific environmental installations, so that one can immerse oneself in the mutual reflections and refractions between the works. The opportunity not to be missed is now a monographic exhibition, made in collaboration with the Artesilva gallery in Seregno (MB), at KAPPA-NöUN, an exhibition space founded in San Lazzaro di Savena (BO) by the collector Marco Ghigi, inspired by which Gerold Miller created the unpublished series called set, premiered here along with three new sculptures from the Verstärker series. The latter repeat in three different scales the one sculptural module to which the artist has always been dedicated, namely a tripartite formation of three parallelepipeds oriented to each other at right angles, two of which form the base and the third extends in height. The sculptures inhabit the space as stylized presences, but the silent dialogue they establish among themselves, the visitors from time to time framed by their grids, and the wall works pervade the nature of these objects (and also that of those ensnared among them) with ambivalence. If so far the three-dimensional form in Miller is always identical to itself, the evolution of these works lies in the material: instead of being made of stainless steel, like the square modules he intended for the wall, they have been produced in black marble from solid Belgium. Extremely disorienting is the fact that the surfaces, treated with sophisticated processing, postpone the identical mirroring of the metallic ones, to the point that it is really hard to notice the difference, despite the surfacing of some delicate veining.

The new set series, on the other hand, consists of six rectangular works of different sizes arranged in sequence on a single wall, on each of which the same geometric composition is repeated, formed by a square (central to the pictorial plane in the sense of width but positioned downward in that of height) framed by four other backgrounds of different colors oriented at 45° so as to create a kind of vortex movement of which the square seems to be the fulcrum. It seems more evident than ever here how Miller’s abstract figuration never seeks to define a static image, but rather a shifting boundary between interior and exterior space, continually challenged by illusionistic breakthroughs achieved through the virtuosic control of a painting closely anchored in two-dimensionality. In particular, these more articulated and wavy sets, which represent a further development of his work in terms of the use of novel chromatics and geometries, suggest both equivocal volumetries between relief and recess and the circular opening and closing movement of an analog lens. In a sense then, Miller’s works, despite their firm minimalist arrangement that does not allow for error or smearing, can be seen as a passionate inquiry into human nature and how perception affects the way we see and understand the world.

Text by Dehò, Valerio: No boundaries, 2023