JOHN MILLEI: Good Question

John Millei, Lancelot (for Walker Percy), 1991, 132" x 108", oil & acrylic on canvas

In his most recent blog post, Chris Ashley presents a group of images by painter John Millei, and the question: "Why isn't John Millei a Super Star?". Well I certainly have no answer, but it's a very good question. I've never seen Millei's work in person, but over the years, it has caught my eye on many occasions in various reproductions in journals. If you bang through his 230 images spanning about 20 years on the Ace Gallery website (also see Dennis Hollingsworth's blog for a great visit to Millei's studio), you'll see one ass-kicking painting after another -- gorgeous large scale works that explore different themes or configurations from year to year, but are absolutely consistent in their layered poeticism, their surprising and inventive approach to color and process, and their unflagging irony-free and adventurous commitment to the medium. Looking at Millei's body of work, the question of why an artist like, say Albert Oehlen, should be more highly regarded by the "market" than Millei is a tough and complex one. Is it partly due to the fact that Millei is an LA painter, not a German protege of Polke, et al (not in the in crowd)? Maybe in part it's the lack of irony (unhip) that's a problem, or much more likely, it has nothing to do with the work itself at all. The "forces" that control these criteria and determinations are indeed most mysterious. In any case, the paintings certainly warrant a close look, and I really appreciate Chris bringing this work to our attention.