Art in Review: Technological alienation


Steve Miller
Elga Wimmer Gallery
560 Broadway (near Prince Street)
Through July 3

In earlier work, Steve Miller combined loosely painted abstract shapes with the splotches of the Rorschach ink-blot test, setting up an ironic contrast between the gesturally rendered paint and the standardized figures of the psychological test. In the large grid of drawings that line three walls of this gallery, Mr. Miller continues to explore this double vocabulary by painting, drawing, splashing and airbrushing abstract elements on top of silk-screened versions of medical photographs and X-rays.

But the irony that marked his earlier work is toned down here, replaced by a surprising formal openness. As before, Mr. Miller often highlights the raster lines of the video monitors from which many of the photographs are taken, using them to create an underlying mood of technological alienation. Against this emotionally distanced background, the handmade marks sometimes take on the character of explosions. It’s as if the photographic image itself were bursting apart, spilling the fluid inside the video tube, or the photograph, or the human organs in the X-rays, across the paper.

In two recent paintings in the show, Mr. Miller tries to convey suggestions of this sort using a palette of glittery, Pop Art colors. But these works are markedly less successful. It is the ghostly black-and-white drawings that best express his ambivalent feelings about the tense relationship between pictures of the camera and those of the hand.