Curated by Debra Bricker Balken
September 4 – October 11, 2003
Mark Milloff, born in Miami, Florida in 1953, has been making art his entire life. He currently lives in Providence, RI with his wife Christine, daughter Alexandra and son Harry. He received a Master's degree from the Maryland Institute, Baltimore, and a BA from Connecticut College. He has shown his work in the United States and abroad.
Debra Bricker Balken is an independent curator and writer who works on aspects of modern and contemporary art. Some of her most recent curatorial projects include, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective which appeared at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1998 and Alfredo Jaar: Lament of the Images which was organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center in 1999. In addition, she has recently published a book titled Philip Guston's Poor Richard (2001) with the University of Chicago Press, the images of which subsequently traveled as an exhibition to MASS MoCA and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Ms. Balken, who has taught at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, was an Inaugural Clark Fellow at the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown in 2001 and was the 2002 recipient of a Senior Fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation and a grant from the Getty Research Institute for a book underway on Harold Rosenberg. In January 2003, three of her new curatorial projects opened including, The Park Avenue Cubists at the Grey Art Gallery, New York University and Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz , Duchamp and the New York Avant-Garde at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.
When I began the pastels after a considerable hiatus, it was with no thought of showing them. I would like to thank Debra Bricker Balken and the CUE Art Foundation for giving me the opportunity to do so.
I have been reading the book Moby-Dick since high school, maybe 25-30 times by now; and having grown up in South Florida during the 50s and 60s, spending all of my time fishing, sitting on docks and piers, peering into the water that was more often than not thick and dark like coffee hiding South Atlantic horrors from a curious and cowardly boy, the book immediately represented the best story imaginable. Also, while growing up I was a constant movie goer, worried and waiting every Saturday morning, compressed within a herd of kids at the Hollywood Cinema; and then in college I became devoted to Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai. In particular I was enthralled by the battle scenes, and when I began the large pastels in the mid 80s, it was my intent to emulate these movies; in fact to freeze frame the action sequence at the ultimate moment. I'm also a fan of adventure paintings. The idea of sitting in a theatre and waiting for the curtains to part, revealing Frederick Church's latest on his return from the Andes, is the same thrill I'm trying to impart here. I want the viewer to witness what I've witnessed while adventuring in the book.
Lastly, it was while making short narrative movies myself over the last five years I got the terrible urge to return to pastels and the big story.
by Debra Bricker Balken
I have known Mark Milloff's work and ongoing interest in Moby-Dick for more than two decades. In this mid-nineteenth century American epic narrative -- with all its reverberant drama and profuse imagery -- Milloff has found much to mine, locating in the story's descriptive abundance fathomless possibilities for visual representation. His approach to the tale of Captain Ahab, and his tragic encounter with the whale,Moby-Dick, has taken various forms, alternatively scenic and episodic, as witnessed in his large-scale pastels, and visceral and microscopic, in his thickly painted abstractions that evoke the skin of the whale. While seemingly stylistically distinct, opposed languages even, the two bodies of work remain not only thematically unified, but elaborations of the same general idea. How to convey the intricacy of rich visual material? How to distill specific sections of a novel without capitulating to illustration and literal detail?
Revealingly, Milloff's abstractions are the most well known and exhibited of his work. And even they remain under-recognized. But the pastels -- ironically, perhaps because of their size -- remain for the most part overlooked, almost invisible. Notwithstanding their panoramic proportions, is there still something in our culture that is desirous of consistency, that gravitates, moreover, toward the sparer artistic statement? When the Cue Art Foundation invited me to nominate an artist for its inaugural series of exhibitions of under-recognized figures, I immediately thought of Mark Milloff.? The twin formal means he always employed in his work, with their resulting one-sided and tilted reception, seemed to offer a way to consider some of the ingredients which contribute to the whole phenomenon of under-appreciation. But more importantly, his latest pastel which comprises this installation --
Drawn Up Toward Heaven As If By Invisible Wire
-- now with its integration of film and theatrical framing devices, is a potent and beautifully executed morality tale, one in which the viewer will surely recognize aspects of our current historic predicament.