new-york

John Millei

Ace Gallery

Should the facile painter be envied or pitied? Perhaps the better question is, Who is to be pitied more, the facile painter who remains imprisoned by his proficiency, luxuriating in its pleasurable trivialities—or the one who feels the constraints his talents impose on his expression, flailing against the bars of style? To his credit, if not his comfort, John Millei clearly belongs among the latter class of artists. There’s something cruel, therefore, in gathering together so much of his production over the last eight years, as this show did. Where a smaller exhibition of a single series might have highlighted Millei’s possibilities, this survey underlines his problems—foremost among them being that, while possessing more ability than almost any three painters combined, he has no subject or (what is nearly the same thing) style of his own.

The subject of art is never anything other than an

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