Arts Writing Artist Features

Brian Gillis

Brian Gillis in his studio. 2012 Individual Artist Fellow, Oregon Arts Commission.

Photo: Sabina Poole

Originally published January, 2012

“My privilege as an artist is that I get to research things, to sit around and think about things,” Brian Gillis says. “I make art under the auspices of wondering about a question.” In the process of wondering and researching, Gillis makes sculptural objects and installations that function as both archive and mine. “My overarching project,” Gillis says, “is that of a storyteller or historian who works without a lens or agenda.”

In a way, his practice recreates for the viewer the experience he had as an 18 year old, reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States for the first time. This new information knocked his world sideways. But, as Gillis points out, “Objects can do things words can’t do.” And he uses objects to present information in a way that is, “accessible and democratizing.”

Many times, Gillis’ installations include familiar, functioning, readymade objects like the full reprographic center in “Disobedience, Abstraction, and the Opposable Thumb” or a functioning ATM in “You Deserve More,” which produced an artist’s edition as a receipt. “You Deserve More” saw Gillis installing a cell phone tower, roof trusses, and other ready-mades from companies that are divisions of Halliburton in a roofless former ice house in Arizona.

“My installations, in a way, take advantage of the clinical space where someone comes to understand things through metaphor,” says Gillis. Gillis has shown widely throughout the United States and this year will have solo exhibitions at CUE Art Foundation in New York and at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Courtesy of The Oregon Arts Commission.

Artist Credit: Brian Gillis

Exhibition: Oregon Arts Commission Fellows

Project Website

Oregon Arts Commission