David Miller: A Retrospective

3/17/2001 - 6/17/2001

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In Miller's paintings, one feels that a world is simultaneously falling apart and coming together. He repeatedly registers a turbulence that seems an inescapable condition of the world and of the individual inhabiting this gravityless realm in which all manner of bird and beast, thing and form are apt to be floating, flying, or falling.

Given the wide number of disparate things, forms, and shapes one is apt to encounter in one of Miller's paintings, not to mention his use of different drawing styles, the viewer senses that for the artist the canvas or paper is a plane capable of absorbing and preserving all kinds of information. This information can be representational or abstract, funny or pathetic, elegantly idiosyncratic or awkward and even embarressing and painful. The viewer further senses that Miller may be conceptualizing the picture plane as both a skin (or a body open to dreaming and seeing) and a blackboard layered with history, with notes, bits of information, sketches, and diagrams.

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For while the paintings seem diaristic, they are neither orderly or linear. Rather, each is an accretion of information gleaned from different sources and experiences, and different moments in time. Some information is covered over or is only partially visible. The layers can be thick and viscous or thin and washy. One sees echoes and traces of images and marks embedded (or trapped) within the various layers of paint. And yet, despite their whirlwind circumstances, one senses that a particular narrative current or series of associations holds each composition together.

We don't look at the work as if it is about someone else - the artist possibly - but about ourselves. In fact, we don't look at Miller's work so much as look at ourselves looking at it. In doing so, we mirror the transparent figures the artist has drawn in contour, the various animals he has depicted on the right side of the large figure.

The world and our experience of it is a matter of sight, revelation, and loss. It is a place of constant and unpredictable change. Miller has kept a fresh and innocent eye amidst the change and cacophony. He has always kept looking, even as, in the pig section of Friend, Foe, Food, the water keeps rising.

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Excerpts from essay by John Yau

60 page catalogue from Tang Retrospective available at the Tang Museum