Ali Miller | Distant Gratification

October 14 - November 20

High Noon is pleased to present Ali Miller’s second exhibition with the gallery, Distant Gratification. Miller’s newest paintings engage a post-impressionist philosophy of image composition and mark-making, centering the subject— most often a self-portrait— amongst supernatural fantasy worlds which exist as meta-narratives for overlapping themes within the artist’s life.

Miller’s narratives are adjacent to a kind of speculative fiction that implies its own invented but consistent social order, existing somewhere between truth and perception. This fabricated order expresses itself through a series of allegories on temptation, procrastination, indulgence, and self-sabotage within the same frame as desire, dreams, and potential. A combination of painterly and intricate brushwork echo these dualities in the play and struggle of the painted surface. Miller deliberates in bringing together seemingly opposed elements to force an unlikely harmony while stressing the artificiality of the picture.

Aided by a hallucinatory palette, the mundane becomes theatrical gesture, suggestive of a dissociative state or an internal narrative projected outward. The palette also speaks to contemporary representational paintings’ complicated affair with photo technology— both its advantages and limitations— which she exploits for its own allegorical properties; a baroque aesthetic through the lens of social media, in a time where artists must consider the legibility of their work within the format of an Instagram grid. The Next Best Thing outlines a hedonistic social scene with eccentric fashions that indicate a decadent, invented era. Two figures in glowing ostrich feathers are central to the event, being recorded and observed with the eager, expectant gaze of Tanner’s The Annunciation. In The Critic’s View, the artist slumps in front of her easel while the landscape beyond the open studio window radiates, as menacing as it is sublime, casting a dramatic shadow behind her which has taken on the silhouette of a cartoon demon. The unnatural mimesis of the outside world enters the studio as a fluorescent green chevron pattern etching its way across the floor.

In many works, she is able to slyly eschew gravitational logic, knowing just how far to push forced perspective without asking her audience to suspend their belief entirely. In Icing on the Cake, titled after the colloquial phrase describing a superfluous addition, the bulk of the picture plane is occupied by a luminous cake, recalling Bonnard’s aptitude of describing form primarily with color alone. The cake itself feels like a reliquary and seems to be the light source of the painting, dominating the space while party goers— tiny mastercopies of Bonnard, Degas, and Toulouse-Loutrec— hover in the background in ambiguous states of interactive ritual.

Mirrors, easels, and screens aid in many of Miller’s meta-narratives, implying worlds just beyond reach and the quandaries of charting destiny. The largest work in the show, Take my Breath Away, is a collision of stylistic shifts and brushwork, simultaneously recalling the fleshy mark-making of Pissarro’s late self-portraits, the cryptic spacial logic of Redon, and Klimt’s psychologically charged patterning. While attention is paid to ambiance, seductive details begin to come in and out of focus. A scene reminiscent of Edvard Munch plays out in the artist’s reflection, where she is seen brushing her hair aside to expose her neck, which is met by a shadowy figure.  

Miller invites a slow read into her own relationship to painting, providing glimpses of inspiration and neurosis that speak to a collective experience. While dropping breadcrumbs that lead back to various art historical movements and philosophies, she seems to echo Alan Watts’s notion that, “there is no true fulfillment without delay.”

Ali Miller is a New York City based artist, originally from Long Island. She received her BFA from Alfred University in 2008 and her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Hoffberger School of Painting in 2012. She has exhibited in New York, Baltimore, Washington DC, Toronto, and Florence, and has attended residencies at Chateau Orqueveaux, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Golden Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and Chautauqua Institution. Miller also received the Best in Show Prize at the Bethesda Painting Awards and her work can be found in private and public collections throughout the U.S.