This month, Milliner, a Beaver County native who has shown his work in Pittsburgh and beyond, will emerge from the doldrums of the pandemic with Interlude, a new show at CDCP Project Space in Wilkinsburg. Even more, he wants to make it worth the trip for audiences still unsure about venturing out.
“I don't want to give too much away, but from the moment you walk in, it will be an audio visual experience as you move through the gallery,” says Milliner, adding that he wanted to create a unique semi-interactive experience to complement the 20 or so artworks hanging on the walls.
On display Oct. 17-31, Interlude is the result of a weeks-long artist residency launched by CDCP Project Space as a way to provide more opportunities for Pittsburgh artists.
“We identify people who we think their work is really strong and give them a couple weeks to play in the space with [the] goal of an exhibition at the end of the residency,” says CDCP Project Space founder Casey Droege. (CDCP stands for Casey Droege Cultural Productions.) Interlude is the second show to go up in CDCP Project Space since the gallery and shop reopened in late August, months after it closed on March 15 to comply with the COVID-19 shutdown.
The residency allowed Milliner, the second participant in the program, to embark on his first solo show. The first resident was street artist Jerome “Chu” Charles.
Droege, who heads the artist-run, woman-owned business CDCP has previously worked with Milliner, who has sold limited-edition prints through the CDCP CSA PGH program and the arts retail space, Small Mall. What attracts her to his work is the way he uses “retro ad language” to create these “really political pieces” that are still subtle.
“He's got a great sense of humor, and he addresses some really big issues with great finesse,” says Droege. “He's really smooth with the way that he deals with this material and this subject matter.”
Milliner says his work is influenced by subvertising, a satirical artistic style known for spoofing corporate or political ads, and often reworks iconic brand logos to comment on issues ranging from industrial pollution to the exploitation of workers.
On his website called “Social Living,” Milliner displays and sells work that distorts the smiling, white, impeccably dressed figures familiar in ads of the 1950s and 1960s. He sometimes juxtaposes these with darker images; in one collage, Living In Your Shelter World, sunny depictions of white domesticity clash with a clipping of Ku Klux Klan members burning a cross. Milliner, who is Black, calls out the underlying racism of white-only ads, which for decades have been the standard in American marketing.
“I really wanted to push my limits on what I can create,” he adds.
Milliner has also branched out beyond collage art with digital paintings, one of which will serve as a fundraising tool for a local organization. Over the course of the exhibition, visitors can purchase limited-edition prints of his work Not my Sunshine for $45. Proceeds from the print sales will go to the Wilkinsburg Youth Project, a nonprofit that provides work readiness training and other services to local youth with the mission of creating positive change in the borough.
Encouraging people to purchase art by offering pieces like Not my Sunshine at affordable prices remains a large part of CDCP’s mission.
This approach includes the artist residency, which will continue in the late-winter and early spring with Jessica Alpern Brown. CDCP Project Space will also present another exhibition in November featuring work by CDCP project manager, Nicole Czapinski, and Baltimore-based artist, Alex Ebstein.
For now, Interlude will serve as a bit of a return to normal with some restrictions in place. To accommodate the limited capacity necessary for social distancing, visitors must sign up for a time slot before coming to the gallery. Face masks will also be required.
“I'm hoping that people will be excited enough about the work to take the time to check it out,” says Droege.
Interlude opening reception. 1-6 p.m. Sat., Oct. 17. Continues through Sat., Oct. 31. CDCP Project Space. 317 S. Trenton Ave., Wilkinsburg. Free. Reservation required. caseydroege.com/interlude