Continuing through May 18, 2013
A half dozen paintings by one artist sounds unimpressive, but John Millei’s new work fits this intimate gallery nicely, indeed. Each work gets the space it needs, without precious amounts of empty wall; more importantly, each of the six oil and flashe paintings of canvas, all 36 by 30 inches, merits slow looking. Gallerist George Lawson notes that they were “conceived as a progression, and in some sense perhaps as a kind of private correspondence.” With their modest dimensions and perfectly interlocked color and gesture, the results of long experience and honed instincts, they make a strong case for the continuing relevance of lyrical Abstract Expressionism.
In a long and wide-ranging review of Millei’s previous Maritime and White Squalls paintings of 2004-2005, the critic Donald Kuspit praised the artist’s ability to reinvigorate the AbEx tradition via, paradoxically, postmodernism’s “historicist consciousness . . . by returning to . . . traditional [modernist] art as a source not just of signs but of insights,“ i.e., by combining a contemporary interest in process with the traditional, historic goal of creating “imaginative structures.” Millei fuses process and structure again in his works of 2013 like out the door, with its spontaneous broad swipes of yellows, purples and gray-greens energizing the white space that contains them; down by the stream, with colliding, spatially ambiguous brushstrokes perfectly stabilized by a six-stroke square of yellow-green; and to the edge, a field of broad magenta-pink strokes overlaid with silvery rectangles. Vigorously unfussy, yet manifesting a virtuosic command of technical effects—thick vs. thin, slow vs fast, closed vs open, smooth vs textured—these are painters’ paintings that might even appeal to those trained in post-painterly, conceptualist doctrine.