Wardell Milan engages with the practices of drawing, photography, painting, and performance to create works of varying scales that center the representation of the human figure. Often arresting and seductive in their dramatic fragmentation of form and vibrant use of color, Milan’s work captivates and encourages sustained consideration. Sustained looking reveals the urgent social issues ever present in his practice, though not always immediately apparent. Based in New York and trained in Tennessee, Milan’s figures reflect American experience relevant to today and emerging from our collective history.
Over the fall of 2022 and spring of 2023, the Benton presents Milan’s recent work in two distinct but related presentations: five monumental billboards on the campus of Pomona College, and four large works on paper in the entrance foyer of the museum.
The billboards—Milan’s first outdoor campus-based project—lead the viewer on a journey through the college. Inspired by the work of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, they offer a sustained meditation on the marginalized body, one for each billboard: the quarantined body, the Black body, the migrant body, the female body, and the trans body. The four works on view in the Benton’s entrance foyer similarly employ multiple techniques of image-making—photography, drawing, collage, erasure—to disassemble and reassemble the human form, examining the practice and concept of figuration itself. By making and remaking the body, and by making this process transparent, Milan exposes the emotional vulnerabilities and redemptive possibilities of the physical self, transmuting violence into beauty and isolation into belonging.
This project has been made possible by the Fund for Art in Public Places and by the Art Acquisitions and Programs Fund.