“What do you want to say on canvas?” | Artist Wardell Milan | Louisiana Channel

We visited American artist Wardell Milan in his Brooklyn studio and entered a fascinating universe of paintings capturing the world we live in.

“I can paint and draw the shit out of a body or narrative.” Clearly, Wardell Milan loves art while simultaneously believing in its potential to reflect our time.

“I am creating awareness. The potential of painting is great. It depends on how the artist wants to use the canvas. I think a painting has the potential to hit us full body!”

“I am interested in the space between the in between. I never offer a solution in my work. Particularly in the drawings and paintings, I want to propose the questions. I am never interested in giving a prescription or a direction. I have no answer for you.”

Wardell Milan brings a photographically trained eye to his drawings, collages, dioramas, and works on paper. In his practice, he explores themes of personal identity and the physicality of the body, often drawing inspiration from sports culture, pornography, and fashion. Milan simultaneously evokes the beauty and the grotesque in a single captivating image. He is well known for his charcoal and collage depictions of famous boxers in the arena and portraits of women and flowers morphing into one another.

Milan’s collages often incorporate cut-out photographs, including iconic works by Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as Charles Hoff’s images of boxers in The Fights. He also has been inspired by such varied sources and artists as Francis Bacon, and Robert Gober, the films of Federico Fellini, bodybuilding magazines, the absurdist plays of Eugène Ionesco, and E.J. Bellocq’s photographs of the Storyville district of New Orleans.

Milan studied photography at the University of Tennessee and Yale University. Works by the artist can be found in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Denver Art Museum; Brooklyn Museum, New York, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; UBS Art Collection; Daniel and Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation, Paris; Hall Art Foundation; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Milan lives and works in New York.

Wardell Milan was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in Brooklyn, New York. The interview took place in Milan’s studio in July 2022.

Camera: Sean Hanley
Edited by: Signe Boe Pedersen
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022

Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.

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