Anne Doran.June 28, 2010.
This self-taught autistic artist creates works of astonishing complexity.
Now in his late forties, Dan Miller is a 20-year veteran of the studio art program at Oakland’s Creative Growth Art Center, an organization for adults with disabilities that has also nurtured such talents as Judith Scott and Dwight Macintosh. Miller, who is autistic, has limited verbal capabilities. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, he uses language as the basis for his drawings, which consist of dense, mostly illegible accretions of words, phrases, letters and numbers that serve as a record of the artist’s life and obsessions.
Works seen in a 2007 show at White Columns featured clotted masses of energetic black writing, sometimes obscured by bright jumbles of block letters. The paintings on paper currently on view, all created this year, are quieter and more complex. In them, successive layers of words and images rendered in graphite, marker, and metallic and opalescent paint alternately merge into a unified, buzzing surface and float apart in deep pictorial space.
The drawings range from a syncopated progression of vertical pencil marks, each repeated in sparkling pale buff paint, to a snappy blue-and-black diagram that recalls Jean Tinguely’s rattletrap sculptures, to a delicate composition in which transparent horizontal waves of writing pulse over a central circular device. Formally they marry Cy Twombly’s graffiti-like scratchings with Jackson Pollock’s skeins of dripped paint; conceptually, however, they are closer to Yayoi Kusama’s hallucinatory “Infinity Nets,” or the “Involuntary Sculptures”—rolled-up bus tickets and slivers of soap shaped by repeated, unconscious gestures—documented by Brassaï and Salvador Dalí in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure. Likewise a result of obsessive activity, Miller’s astonishing works fuse compulsive documentation with gestural abstraction, their autobiographical content dispersed, like sand in water, in a nonobjective field.