Artist Adam D. Miller has his fingers in many pots. Literally. Best known to many as a co-founder of beloved Los Angeles and Palm Springs-based contemporary gallery The Pit, Miller is also an accomplished ceramicist on his own time. He is the force behind Reaperware—a line of functional ceramics for the home which are somehow both folksy and super Goth. And as an artist, his sensibility in the studio matches his gallery’s in a taste for elevated post-Pop work of skill and verve, equally embracing art historical gravitas and well-crafted wit and whimsy.
Miller’s ceramics often take shape as vessels, frequently on a large-scale, whose corporeal curves, crusts, lumps, protrusions, and hand-soothed distresses reference and deconstruct the classical modality of the genre and amplify their relationship to the body—but whose zingy palettes and upbeat, comics-inspired imagery point to a joyful abandon and a set of meanings channeling the crazy sweetness of parenthood. His book Ultrapots (Lord Byron Editions) is a new monograph surveying years of such vessels, and several key examples are currently on view in the ceramics-themed group show Fire It Up at Over the Influence in the downtown Arts District, open through Sunday, August 27.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ADAM D. MILLER: I’m not certain when I knew I was an artist, but I remember the experience that made me want to become one. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and when I was around 8-10 my parents took me to an exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Walt Disney. When I left that show I wanted to be an artist and my parents signed me up for after school art classes. I recently took my two young boys to see Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody [at The Broad] and it was amazing to see the work have such an impact on them at similar ages as it did to myself.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
A blend of nerd culture and the intense and joyful ride that is being a parent.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Well, I juggle multiple careers currently including being an art dealer. I started my education with a degree in graphic design and sometimes I pine for working with printed images again, I also used to design and produce artist books which was a real joy. If I was to totally separate myself from the art world, I would probably want to be an architect or furniture designer. Those are the adjacent fields that I love to get lost researching, and seem simpler to navigate than the art world. Although I’m sure the grass is always greener. Architects always tell me that they wish they were sculptors.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I received my Bachelor’s Degree from CalState Sacramento. When I was younger I was more interested in playing music and doing graphic design for independent labels than I was in fine art so I moved to Sacramento where I was plugged into that scene. The college was chosen more because of location and ease than anything else. But, when I got serious about art I decided to get a Master’s degree from a top school to make connections and basically as a means to force myself to leave Sacramento. I received my MFA from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena in 2008.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
For multiple reasons, one being that the gallery that I co-founded is here and we have deep roots at this point. But, beyond being tethered to L.A., I honestly love Los Angeles. I love raising my children here. I love that they have access to world class museums, and so many cultural opportunities here. I also think there is real value to raising children in such a diverse city (culturally, economically, etc. etc. etc.). It continually broadens my own perspective and thinking, being in this city, and I think there’s such value to giving those experiences to my children. I believe that being in a diverse city makes for more empathetic and thoughtful individuals because it’s harder to get trapped in one’s own bubble.
When was your first show?
My first art show was at a coffee shop in Sacramento which was owned and operated by punk singer Kevin Seconds. It was a better experience than many of the “real” galleries I have worked with over the years. LOL.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
A monograph about my work was recently published and MOCA hosted a book launch and public conversation between myself and curator Trinie Dalton. It was a really meaningful event and moment for me. I also recently launched a functional design line called Reaperware. My friends at Marta Gallery hosted the launch and it was a wonderful event, and I’m thrilled to have the line available now. Later in this year I will have work at Design Miami with Mindy Solomon Gallery. I will also have solo exhibitions with The Future Perfect and Mindy Solomon Gallery in 2024.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Yep, I mainly listen to metal, first generation punk bands, new wave, and industrial. Skinny Puppy and Devo are usually heard in the studio.
Website and social media handles, please!
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