Deep Surface: Reading a New Language in the Kinetic Passages of Jay Milder

Jay Midler's Recent Paintings 1999/2001 | ANDRE ZARRE GALLERY

The bustling scenarios of Jay Milder’s mixed-media paintings contain a cornucopia of compelling details, delivered with verve and panache. The artist’s ongoing investigation of interlocking forms and hieratic signifiers reaches a new seamlessness in this mature series of rollicking but elegant compositions.

The earlier works in the show initially appear like a hodgepodge of images. Reds, yellows, royal blues, and sea greens gradually become apples, stacked grapefruit, or faces in a crowd. It’s as if Milder has painted a still life, but it won’t stay still.

In Ark 1-01, the title helps the viewer pick out a rabbit head, a fish, and other figures. Reminiscent of Jean Dubuffet, a childlike directness informs the broad lines and blocks of vibrant color. The jigsaw pieces seem to float on a blue background. White dabs accentuate broad borders, adding a carnivalesque tone, like lightbulbs circling a marquee. Indeed, the paintings is so inviting, one can almost imagine a barker beckoning at the entrance of a tent.

Yet, as with most of Milder’s creations, one reading of the narrative leads to alternatives. Numbers anchor sections and suggest esoteric meanings. Then, too, perspective can shift from the horizontal, as in a frieze, to the vertical, where the work becomes topographical, sometimes looking like a view of suburbs from a plane. In 4th Day, the greens are rectilinear, evoking the image of lawns. Glyphic paths or streets imply a physical reality, suggesting that this is a picture or map of a real space. And when this interpretation proves too palpable, suddenly the painting becomes a gameboard, like Snakes and Ladders or a chaotic Parcheesi.

The most recent painting in the show is also the calmest, as if Milder has worked out certain elements and produced an epiphany. In Noah’s Ark MCJ, the different elements are given more independence. They seem to rest on a soothing green backdrop like jewels on a cloth. There is less agitation in these pieces but no less animation. In this show, Milder takes us on an adventure, and in the process, lets us in on how things progress.

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