Surface Tension: BRAD MILLER’S TRINITY OF TEXTURAL WORKS

'Pealings'
‘Pealings’

On the web last week there was a viral photo going around. A man had photographed a single drop of ocean water and magnified it thousands of times, revealing a universe crowded with creatures of all size and shapes, beyond our science fiction dreams (or nightmares.) With this on my mind, Brad Miller’s work at Cabana Home — on view now through June 14 — struck a chord.

While there are no creatures to be found in his work, he too is invested in the microscopic universe that’s under our noses. Sometime he reveals it in his bubble and wave photographs, and sometimes he recreates it in his ceramics and his work on wooden canvas.

'P9-10'Edward Cella Art + Architecture photos
‘P9-10’

Edward Cella Art + Architecture photos

'P6-11'
‘P6-11’

Mr. Miller — through Edward Cella Fine Art, who curates these shows — has exhibited at Cabana Home before. But for this reviewer, it’s our first encounter with him. Maybe it will be yours too. This Venice Beach-based artist tries to bring out the fractal mystery of the organic world with his work, discovering that balance between found object and meticulously re-worked art piece.

His most impressive works are his ceramics. Flattened bowls, their functionality disguises the precise handiwork going on to create pieces that feel like they’ve been discovered in some alien forest. Mr. Miller works in porcelain, stoneware and earthenware. There are thirteen pieces in the show, the most interesting ones featuring radiating spirals of smaller ovals, smooth depressions in the surface bordered by rough outlines, inviting touch. (And yes, you can touch the art.)

Seeing his ceramics explains Mr. Miller’s work on wood. Fascinated by circular patterns, rings, ripples, and spirals, he uses objects to burn shapes in wood, then through repetition he makes art. In the intersections of these repetitions, Mr. Miller leaves paint to highlight these crossings. In “Pealings” it appears he’s used loops of bike chain to create something like bacteria. In “Outside,” the object making shapes in the wood is unrecognizable, but they make their way across the wood like waterskimmers. In the large format “Path,” two intersecting sets of rings cross over each other like two pebbles dropped in a pond, just a pond filled with fire.

That leads us to the “Wave Shadows” and “Bubble Shadows” photograph series. The former is the result of placing photographic paper under a glass tray filled with water, then exposing the paper while agitating the tray. The latter exposes the paper but under a tray of bubbles, formed from soap or some other agent. The resulting prints contain way more variation than one would think, and more than Mr. Miller investigates in his other media. We have large, square bubbles; infinitely small clusters of bubbles forming patterns that can be only seen at a distance; mixtures of large and small bubbles that show fractal mathematics in practice. Some photos are mostly black, others mostly white. In the “Wave” series, the materiality of the water is familiar sometimes; in others it looks more like smoke, or audio waves, demonstrating that air and water are close cousins, as are the micro and the macro, the organic and the constructed.

It’s a show in a small space, but there’s plenty to discover. For those interested in meeting the artist, Brad Miller will be talking about his work this Saturday at 1 p.m., interviewed by his curator, Edward Cella.

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