JONATHAN MILDENBERG was born in 1981 in the United States. His immersive installations reference both domestic and institutional spaces, resulting in uncanny juxtapositions which question the distinction between public and private space.
Mildenberg received a BFA from Boston’s Massachusetts College of Art in 2003 and an MFA in Sculpture from Yale University in 2015. He was the 2015 Nominee in Sculpture for the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship and is a current fellow in Environmental Structures for the New York Foundation of the Arts. Recent exhibitions include Here, Tyrant Death / Look Backward, Idiot at Treasure Town, Wet Eyes at MEYOHAS, and Video Mixer at Green Gallery at Yale University.
JONATHAN MILDENBERG | The Transition of Power
February 4 - March 17, 2017
The Transition of Power is the first exhibition at MEYOHAS during the uncertain and precarious Trump Era. Jonathan Mildenberg presents work from an ongoing project that examines our relationship to authority and the power dynamics embedded within a society.
In the main space, sculptural simulacra are meant to invoke the aesthetics of a retail bank — minimalized ATM booths, a fictional logo, frosted windows, and an absurdist collage of image and text posing as an in-store promotional video. Stanchion line drawings are arranged in the space to direct and divide. In the adjacent space, Mildenberg has planted a garden.
Using the visual language of a contemporary retail bank and the real and mythologized symbolism of the garden as templates, Mildenberg explores social landscaping and environmental racism through his indexical objects and uncanny environments. This juxtaposition points towards the basic truth that the organization of land and the life that is selected to grow and thrive within its borders are a projection of the values, ideology and identity of the gatekeepers to these communities.
For example, banks and financial institutions have a long history of racial discrimination in the mapping and sorting of American neighborhoods. Areas were color-coded, and those with “inharmonious racial groups” were outlined in red. Black residents were systematically denied loans and services. It was termed redlining: to deny capital based on racial composition, rather than economic prospects; a visual metaphor for spatial discrimination. While not government sanctioned anymore, this is still happening. In the last fifteen years alone, eight major American banks including Chase, Bank of America, Citi and Wells Fargo have been charged with discrimination in strikingly similar ways.
The idea of a chosen or deserving class within a space of purity and order dates back to our earliest mythologies. The enclosed garden as a metaphor for earthly paradise shows up within many religious creation myths. This structure embeds the binary of in and out within the founding archetypal vision of utopia. For example, in Sir Thomas More's Utopia, a fictional account of an idyllic island nation, owning slaves is a norm. Even in this imagined world, there are people left out.