Charred fruits—lemons, limes, oranges, bananas, plantains—litter the floor of the gallery; their formerly thick skins so thoroughly desiccated from being fired in a kiln that they utterly disintegrate when stepped on. Such messy, smelly decay is the setting of Joshua Miller’s solo exhibition, “YESTERDAYS CAMEL.” Eponymously named for the skeleton of the 10,000-year-old beast found in the La Brea Tar Pits, the exhibition makes allusions to the passage of time, technological antiquation, and the questionable belief in a brighter future.
On the floor among the scorched, dehydrated produce is “Pilgrim,” 2020–, an ongoing series of severed ceramic heads. While one has a penis grotesquely shoved into its mouth, another appears to be drowning in the gallery’s concrete floor—all of these entities seem to be trapped in a tortured, Boschian hell with no hope of salvation. Hanging on the wall above this scene of scatological depravity are four low-relief tiles that spell out the word “home,” like a rebarbative welcome sign, in a medieval font reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts.
Perhaps even more intimate than the idea of “home” are those tactile features of an iPhone (microphone, lock button, camera) with which we are never out of touch. Enlarged renderings of the device’s various components, arranged into an approximate grid, show up in iPhones, 2018, one of Miller’s large taxonomic paintings. While the canvas’s papyrus-inspired reds, browns, and yellowed whites serve to aesthetically unite the disjunctures characterizing the exhibition by documenting a relic of the contemporary (in this instance, models created prior to the work’s date), the piece foreshadows the immanent archaism of its subject, and that of all things—including humanity—in the long, relentless arc of history.
— Hannah Sage Kay