Michael C. McMillen / MATRIX 171: SIDESHOW


Michael C. McMillen / MATRIX 171
January 31, 2015 – May 3, 2015

Download the MATRIX 171 exhibition brochure.

For his MATRIX project, Los Angeles native Michael C. McMillen (American, born 1946) created SIDESHOW, a Coney Island-inspired contemporary art companion piece to Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008.

The Coney Island theme resonated closely with McMillen. In the summer of 1957, the artist’s father took him to New York to visit his old Greenwich Village haunts. An eleven-year-old at the time, the artist held onto indelible images of that trip for half a century, particularly taking the train out to Coney Island where he visited the crumbling Steeplechase Park. McMillen explained,

There, somewhere within the complex of worn rides and faded attractions, I recall visiting a walk-through display tunnel of life-size tableaux depicting famous murders and other social malfunctions. It was both strangely fascinating and familiar. Growing up in Santa Monica, the Ocean Park Pier held a powerful draw for me, made even more attractive because of my grandmother’s admonitions to ‘STAY AWAY!’ The carnival facade was a thin cover for the faded dreams and gross depravity that one would read about in the local tabloids. There was something about this unexpected encounter with the terrible side of human nature and the crudely sensational way it was depicted that was simultaneously riveting, repellent, and haunting. Years later as a young artist thinking about how to engage an audience, I recalled and recognized the power of the immersive environment.”

In SIDESHOW, McMillen used moving shadows, light, and wall projections to create an atmospheric setting for a collection of unusual curiosities and mysterious artifacts. Looking back at his previous 40 years as a working artist, he integrated some of the objects from his 1973 UCLA MFA project The Traveling Mystery Museum, including a fragment of the Mystery Mummy and Hannah the Fortune Telling Mouse. The alluring installations Lighthouse (Hotel New Empire) (2010) and Terminal (2014) were also featured in the exhibition.

Learn more about Michael C. McMillen.

IMAGES ABOVE: (L): Michael C. McMillen, Transmitter, 2014. Painted wood, metal construction, motor, LED beacon; 60 1/2 x 17 x 22 in. (R): Michael C. McMillen, Lighthouse (Hotel New Empire), 2010. Mixed media with digital motion picture; 8 ½ x 11 x 12 ft. (overall). Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver, Venice, California.