John M. Miller’s Striking Paintings Evidence Subtlety and Induce Serenity

  • Installation view of John M. Miller at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach. Courtesy Peter Blake Gallery and the artist.

    Installation view of John M. Miller at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach. Courtesy Peter Blake Gallery and the artist.

While visually arresting at first glance, John M. Miller’s abstract paintings, which he’s been producing for several decades, benefit tremendously from sustained concentration—an increasingly elusive pastime in our fast-paced, attention-deficient digital age. Miller’s exhibition of eight paintings at Peter Blake Gallery activates a sense of serenity; his works seem to heighten both consciousness and perception.

With a uniformity that at turns resembles tally marks on a wall or jagged latticework, an agitated house of cards or an arcane code, Miller’s canvases exude a powerful sense of repetition, with subtle, almost imperceptible shifts in form and color. Made from acrylic resin on canvas, his markings pulsate with a consistent rhythm, yet they are not homogenous. Rather, each meticulously hand-painted, sharp mark is simultaneously distinct and indistinguishable from the rest. These formal tensions between singularity and similarity, spontaneity and deliberation give his swaths of slightly varying lines a highly palpable sense of harmony.

In the past, Miller’s works have been associated with Op Art or Geometric Abstraction, or subsumed under the heading of Minimalism—frequently mentioned in the same breath as artists like Agnes Martin and Brice Marden. While Miller’s paintings may share some elements with these movements and artists, to say that Miller’s canvases strictly belong to any of these camps would be an unfair assessment.

The geometric abstraction in Miller’s canvases may short-circuit external associations, but rather than entirely abandoning context, his marks become the context itself, drawing attention to and amplifying the act of perception without triggering the responses induced by Op Art. Miller’s paintings, if given a chance, fully command a viewer’s immediate field of vision, without dictating the terms of a viewer’s response, even as they gently guide it.


—Grace-Yvette Gemmell

John M. Miller” is on view at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, Sept. 26–Dec. 5, 2015.

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