Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson
Some paintings have to be seen in person, up close, and without distraction to be fully appreciated. That is probably why Austin Thomas felt compelled to frame the maiden showing of Matthew Miller’s stunning new painting (pictured above) as a solo “unveiling” this week at her gallery Pocket Utopia on the Lower East Side. “Stunning” is one of those adjectives often employed to freight clichés with excess superlative, but I choose my words carefully: here I mean that the piece truly stuns the discerning viewer into admiring headshakes and bemused murmurs.
Miller’s meticulous portraiture has always manifested extraordinary old-school precision and, in the enigmatically multivalent expressions of his subjects and the depthless black he often uses as background, a mysterious, other-worldly sensibility. With this new piece – appropriately untitled, as any title might skew or truncate its ramifications – Miller takes his painterly perfectionism to a new level. The highly-wrought character of the painting – the thickness of the oils, the willed absence of brushstrokes – makes the viewer forget about the canvas, leaving a single dominating presence.
His subject’s solemn profile irrevocably claims its space like a homesteader driven by some unshakable faith, the black behind him protecting his endeavor – whatever it may be – in seemingly limitless density. There are additional niceties to apprehend – for instance, the subtle manipulations of the figurative line. But Miller’s fiercely and relentlessly controlled technique sublimates such details; it’s that presence that overwhelms and endures.
“Matthew Miller: Unveiling,” Pocket Utopia, LES, New York, NY. By appointment only, through August 29, 2013.
Studio Visit: Matthew Miller and the Drama of Subtlety (2010)