Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Accidentally On Purpose

Allison Miller, Bed, 2016, Oil, oil stick, acrylic and collage on two canvases 113 x 93 inches overall, 56.5 x 93 inches each. Photo by Jason Ramos 

Splotches, squiggles, stripes, deckle edges. The namable things in Allison Miller’s paintings exist just over and under the threshold of identifiable, representational imagery. Each of the decisions documented on her canvases are paradoxically imbued with both intuitive investigation and methodical consideration. Individually and as a whole, the works in her first solo exhibition at the Pit in Glendale, Screen Jaw Door Arch Prism Corner Bedassert an internal visual logic that defies immediate verbal articulation. However, the presence of the squiggles, grids and framing devices open her language up enough to prevent a completely hermetic system. Bold and graphic declarations of color, shape, and composition give some of the canvases, like Corner, Jaw, and Bed a flag or banner-like feel.

Jaw, 2016, Oil, acrylic, and collage on canvas,
 60 x 52. 5 inches.
Photo by Jason Ramos
Door, 2015, Oil, oil stick, oil pastel, and acrylic on canvas.
Photo by Jason Ramos

The squiggles are accompanied by a bold black stroke of paint and dual, taped-off "less-than" mathematical signs in the largest work of Miller’s to date, Bed. The work is a double decker stacked diptych that commands the entire back wall of the Pit’s next door gallery, the Pit II. Just like her imagery, Bed stands within an in between space, this time between painting and installation. The perspective of the room amplifies the visual destination of the canvases themselves, the angles along the floor and ceiling aligning with the sharp, sideways double-V signs, in turn reiterated by the freehand marks adjacent to them. Passages that seem dictated by controlled accident or chance subsequently reveal specific, conscious addressing of the drips, smears, and cover-ups upon closer reading. Isolated drips in the painting entitled Jar seem surrounded by force fields deflecting a spray of black and pink misted paint. Points of contact between red and green bacon-strips of paint on the left side of Drag Arch are emphasized with dark strokes that seem copied and pasted from the right side of the painting, where they are gathered together within a bright yellow trapezoidal field. Further inspection of the yellow patch recursively uncovers what could be more of those bacon strips on a microscopic scale, or perhaps very far away.

Screen, 2016 (detail)
Jaw, 2016 (detail)

Some of the moves, such as the aforementioned force-fielded marks, sideways V’s, and dark strands and squiggles, have occurred enough in her previous recent work to indicate an idiosyncratic lexicon going back to at least 2007. Denser, fussier compositions from the aughts have now given way to more open fields and a bolder, more striking juggle of higher-key hues. Light-valued grounds in a lot of the earlier work situated them within a drawing context that the work of Screen Jaw Door Arch Prism Corner Bed transcends with a more painterly all-over consideration of the format. Foregrounded linear elements still serve to organize and activate some of the compositions, such as in Bed, Screen, and Door, but in others, they now serve to accent and contrast the fields of color and shape, as in Prism, Corner, Drag Arch, and Jaw. All of this adds up to a slow, satisfying distillation of an abstract language that flirts with hipster nonchalance, but only upon first glance. Sustained viewing is rewarded by unexpected formal revelations in each work. These revelations make Miller’s decision and process available to the viewer, and invite a deeper kind of seeing and use of simple, abstract elements. 

Drag Arch, 2016, Oil, oil stick, acrylic, and pencil on canvas 60 x 58 inches. Photo credit: The Pit, Glendale, CA

Screen, 2016, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches. Photo by Jason Ramos

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