There isn’t exactly any paint in artist Anthony Miler’s latest series of paintings. His “Grisaille Paintings,” on view at Brooklyn’s ART 3 gallery in September, are actually made by drawing directly with graphite onto raw canvas.
The new series is the result of months of studies, in which the artist tried to build up contrast in graphite—and realized it was a nearly impossible task to reach true blacks, given the limits of the medium and its metallic hue. All the while, Miler meditated on the relationship between drawing and painting, finding ways to twist and complicate it. Like much of his oeuvre, the resulting works—full of big tangles of bodies with frightening faces, plants, or abstract squiggles—highlight the handmade in the age of crisp digital creations, and in these new works, Miler revels in graphite’s inability to reach true black against the background of the off-white canvas.
Even in his more colorful works, Miler celebrates the imperfect. Influenced by the CoBrA group’s exaltation of the primitive, his visceral, gestural images look like a 21st-century update of the Art Brut movement or Willem de Kooning’s fierce femmes. “I like an idea of Neo-Brut,” Miler has said. “I feel like we’re reaching a moment of being ripe for this type of work again. It’s the opposite of all of these industrial production values, surface shine, and dehumanizing algorithms.” As such, Miler’s work offers an antidote for a world facing technological fatigue—something raw, real, and totally human.