Today we launched “In the Gallery | Los Angeles,” our fifth edition of our weekly editorial project which highlights current exhibitions on view chosen from a select group of Paddle8 partner galleries. We work with a fabulous selection of LA-based galleries and are very pleased to present some of the exciting shows they currently have up. Be sure to stay tuned for more editorial content from “In the Gallery | Los Angeles,” and read below for our first full Q&A from the project with artist Adam Miller!
Adam Miller’s current exhibition at Steve Turner Contemporary Rise of the Minotaur, is a solo exhibition with a selection of work across mediums including drawing, painting and sculpture – all of which “incorporate imagery from Greek mythology, pre-Columbian art, metal culture, horror movies, textile design, fantasy illustration and comics to investigate man’s unchecked destructive instincts.” We had a chance to chat with Miller about his interest in ancient mythology, his inspiration for recent works and what “cult culture” he enjoys. Check out the full Q&A below!
Paddle8: Greek mythology is filled with tales of violence and hybrid beasts - what specifically drew you to the myth of the Minotaur?
Adam Miller: The Minotaur is interesting to me for multiple reasons. One of the reasons I chose to name the exhibition after the tale of the Minotaur opposed to the hydra, or medusa, or one of the many other mythological Greek creatures is that I feel the Minotaur has seeped deeper into our collective conscious and plays a role in so many aspects of cult culture. For example, images of the Minotaur draw up references to fantasy novels, Dungeons and Dragons, video games, hardcore and metal bands, and so on.
I’m interested in how icons and concepts of violence become processed, packaged, and turned into popular and cult culture. For example, I love fantasy and barbarian movies, books, and illustrations. However, I’m also interested in actual barbarian communities and their role in the destruction of Rome and the foundation of Europe. They were these hyper violent nomadic communities that only wanted to destroy society by murdering and raping and literally burning down cities, and thousands of years later they’ve been turned into these nerdy fantasy heroes. The distance from the history of barbarism and an image from Conan the Barbarian are so great because of our consumerist culture, but underneath the slick packaging there still lurks the very dark reality of what humans are capable of.
The exhibition and my work in general, deal with uncontainable drives of violence and destruction that are inherent in humans, and our relationship to animals and to death. I think it is interesting that our culture portrays animals as destructive and horrific. I don’t believe that animals can ever engage in an act of violence because they lack rational thought. We see ourselves in animals, instead of appreciating them for what they truly are; a purer form of consciousness. The tale of the Minotaur is interesting because it highlights this conflict between these destructive drives of humans, and how we portray animal nature. The Minotaur is a perfect Jungian archetype. It’s reflected in the movie Jaws, Godzilla films, the Alien franchise, Jurassic Park, tales of man eating lions; really anywhere that the unstoppable and insatiable beast is seen devouring the innocent. Those are really musings on human nature reflected in the mirror of an animal.
P8: Can you tell us about the origins of Cthulhu and Gamera (the two works featured in project space)?
AM: Cthulhu is taken from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The author crafted a mythos around Cthulhu and other space creatures which span multiple short stories and were originally published in pulp fiction magazines in the 1920s and 30s. The mythos revolves around cults trying to resurrect ancient gods of pure chaos that came from the cosmos and are now trapped in the sunken city of R’lyeh. Their presence on Earth creates anxiety on a subconscious level for humans.
Gamera is a giant, flying turtle from a series of Japanese Kaiju movies similar to the Godzilla franchise. He has several different origins according to when in the series a person first tunes in. Basically he feeds on fire and petroleum based products which give him the power to breathe fire and fly. He battles other giant monsters in order to protect the citizens of Japan but ends up nearly leveling everything to the ground.
Again, I’m interested in researching cult culture icons that have a strong relationship to how as a culture we view animals, but that actually behave more consistently with our own drives of violence and destruction. Even though Cthulhu and Gamera have animal like features they behave more like mankind than anything in the animal kingdom and it’s interesting to link these characters with our own history.
P8: What were some of the cult films and comics that you read growing up (or still read)?
AM: Obviously I am a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and Japanese Kaiju movies. I’ve been a mega fan of the Godzilla movies since I was a little boy and have him tattooed on my forearm. I love the Alien movies and Science Fiction in general. I’m very interested in the writing of Robert E. Howard, particularly the Conan stories (interestingly Howard was a pen pal and friend of H.P. Lovecraft). I love the comics of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison (in particular Moore’s Swamp Thing and Morrison’s the Invisibles). I’ve been a mega fan of Glenn Danzig and all of his musical projects for many years (also tattooed on me). I saw Gwar perform when I was in high school and it completely blew me away. John Carpenter’s the Thing is probably my all time favorite movie. I love Italian Giallo films and slasher movies in general. When I was a kid I loved Star Trek. I love the sci-fi and horror films of David Cronenberg. The list just goes on and on.