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WILD RIDE
by N.F. Karlins
 
Hey, Skaters. Want a board thatís off the hook?†

Run to the Ricco/Maresca Gallery where youíll find four skateboards for MAKE, a new New York City company, featuring artist-designed boards. These limited editions (edition of 25) are embellished with details from drawings by Dan Miller.

Dense, almost scribbled areas alternate with more open, sometimes lacy ones. The limited color palette consists of black, blue, grey, salmon-pink and opalescent white.

You might want to look around at Dan Millerís new large-scale drawings (roughly three by four feet) while youíre there. I know I will. They mix pencil, crayon and opalescent paint in thoroughly original ways.

Dan Miller (b. 1961) is an artist working at Creative Growth in Oakland, California, which will receive a portion of the selling price of all the works in this show. Autistic, with a limited vocabulary, Mr. Miller has been conducting a lively conversation in pencil, crayon, watercolor and paint for about twenty years.

While the press release mentions Philip Gustonís paintings from the 1950s with their concentrated patches of verticals and horizontals, I immediately think of Pollock, too, because of the distinctive layers that Miller puts down, which then cohere into an overall composition that pushes and pulls the eye.

But perhaps Dan Millerís drawings are closest in spirit not to paintings but to other drawings, like those of Alberto Giacometti. While a head, figure or still-life may emerge from a closely considered tangle of lines in a Giacometti, Millerís statements are wilder -- with scrawled lines, bits of words (or at least letters), phantom shapes, and long, sweeping, lyrical passages of paint that tie everything together.

In these recent drawings, all executed during that last year or so, a top layer of opalescent paint has been applied in big, looping gestures, squirted directly over graphite and crayon marks from plastic bottles usually used for ketchup and mustard. The effect is effortlessly elegant.

Occasionally a whole word is visible, as in one work in which "Sheila," the name of a long-time worker at Creative Growth and one of Danís friends, appears. Sometimes a shape coalesces, like the light bulbs in another piece. Danís uncle owned a hardware store, where he spent time, so thatís probably what inspired the shape, but the way the shape repeats and hovers is all Dan Millerís doing.

To appreciate how rich and complex these works really are, there is no substitute for seeing them in person. Fortunately, the show doesnít close until August 19, 2010.


N.F. KARLINS is a New York critic and art historian.