No Deal

Robbie Miller thinks inside the box

If you want to be a total, joyless hard-ass about it, you could say all art is pointless, really. What is Mona Lisa La Gioconda, after all, but a whole bunch of oil paint blops, arranged on a sheet of poplar to resemble some weird, long-dead lady who had no eyebrows? What is Duchamp's Fountain but a perfectly useful urinal that was wrenched from its rightful place in a restroom somewhere, only to have some inexplicable graffiti scrawled on it? (R. Mutt? That's not even Duchamp's name!) Somebody put a freakin' piss pot on display in a gallery? Seriously, what sort of crazy person would do a thing like that? And unless you buy the idea that Picasso was a genius, he really was just an asshole. An asshole who painted freaky women with both eyes on one side of their heads. Everybody knows that's not where your eyes go!

Art is, of course, an utterly subjective experience, and the gallery show that moves me to grateful tears could well strike you as an utterly hopeless waste of time. In art, there are simply no absolutes. With that in mind, most of us would have to agree that @Space Gallery's latest exhibit—Robbie Miller's What I Would Wear If . . . One Man's Obsession With Game Shows—is one of the most baffling and pointless (there, I said it) shows to come along in many a moon.

What Miller has done, see, is take a bunch of pictures of himself dressed up like he would be dressed if he was on various reality shows. No, seriously, that's it. Here's Robbie dressed in a vaguely Fabio-esque getup for Dancing With the Stars. Here's Robbie dressed like a West LA fop for Shear Genius. Here's Robbie with his shirtless, chubbyish torso on display for Survivor. Here's Robbie in a backward baseball cap for The Price is Right, surrounded by kiddie toys in a back yard and looking like he's going to have a barbecue or something. He just barely troubles himself to suggest the sets for these shows—he shot these photos in his in-laws' home and lets their bathroom mirror, for instance, serve as his version of the Shear Genius hair salon. It looks like the whole thing took him less than an afternoon.

Robbie Miller's interpretation of "Dancing with the Stars." Photo by Robbie Miller/courtsey of @Space Gallery.
Robbie Miller's interpretation of "Dancing with the Stars." Photo by Robbie Miller/courtsey of @Space Gallery.

The pictures themselves ain't much to look at—it's just some guy who looks like one of your neighbors, standing around in different outfits and making funny faces—but Miller might have made it work if he were a wiz at writing killer captions. Warhol's work usually wasn't all that hot visually, either, but the ideas behind it were so much fun that you easily forgave him for paintings that sometimes looked like botched photocopies left over at the end of a Kinko's shift. With enough clever talky-talk, Miller possibly could have convinced us this show was a grand statement about the gulf between the glammed-up, manufactured reality of reality TV and the schlubby, real reality most of us know, or some whole postmodern satirical deal examining the way bad TV cheapens our imaginations, or a series of penetrating self-portraits filtered through schlocky pop culture. . . . In other words, maybe Miller could have managed to bullshit his way out of this mess. But no, one gets the feeling the artist just sincerely liked these shows and wanted to be a part of them somehow. We can hardly begrudge him the sentiment, but couldn't he have just written some Deal or No Deal fan fiction or something, posted it online, and saved us all a lot of bother?

If a friend told you he was gonna do something like this—run all over town buying wigs and stuff, and then take a bunch of goofy pictures of himself dressed up like people on TV—you'd probably think it was pretty funny. Robbie, you'd say as you slapped him on the back, only a crazy bastard like you would ever think up something like that! When he was finished and he pulled out a big photo album of the pictures, you'd laugh until tears fell from your eyes. You're a nut, Rob! A nut! And oh, how you would howl when he told you he'd actually found some gallery that was going to put his pictures on display. Your sides, they would split!

Maybe Miller really does have some grand, satirical point to make here. But one gets a nasty feeling the real joke is on us.

"What I Would Wear If . . . One Man's Obsession With Game Shows" at @Space Gallery, 2202 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 835-3730. Wed.-Thurs. & Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Free.

 
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