Sunday, July 29, 2007

J Matt Miller: Key

Before I begin, I will confess that such minimalistic paintings are the most difficult to write about. I often ask myself if I am not over-analyzing, and in such cases as this one, where there is seemingly little tension, I have to double check myself. And still, the challenge remains irresistible.

This piece boasts a nearly perfect composition: three levels -- the nail, the the thread and the key -- each one given a different color. The knot on the thread points to the left edge, opposite to the key's direction, a divergence that creates a restrained balance. There is a gradation of length, as it progressively increases from the highest object to the lowest. As almost in all Miller's work, the composition appears almost flat, with shadows so close to the objects, they barely expand to give the just about the correct three dimensional illusion.

Because the objects protrude only slightly, volume becomes a latent leitmotif: the key's stylized nearly flat appearance vs. the three dimensions in which it works, the turning movement being one the three basic motions in a three dimensional world. Furthermore, using the key may entail opening something, which also denotes a symbolical invasion of space, such as a door turning on its hinges, or a dresser sliding out -- they all disrupt the given space, utilizing the three dimensional reality.

The pinkish thread may serve as a comic relief to the classic looking key (its color may imply money/gold). And since the key literally hangs by this thread, the two disclose a playful recommendation not to take reality too seriously and remember that there are more important things than the daily routine. The golden path lays in the reasonable interchange between fancy and realism; accordingly, the small triangle on the key's head points towards the golden center, where the thread and the metal connect. The key to understanding this work is finding a link between all its elements, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Together, they form a unity conquering in its simplicity and quiet force.

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