John Millei and Scott Grieger are painters who attempt to demystify artworks while becoming caught up in propagating the myths they attempt to explode.
In Millei's case, the grandiloquent Abstract Expressionist statement--with its heroic verbosity of huge scale, earth-colored impasto and kinetic drips--is undermined by an equal attention to geometric structure. Messy color fields are either anchored by inset rectangles and circles, or superimposed with fragments of grids. The two vocabularies produce a form of structural expressionism where "discipline and desire" seem bedfellows rather than contradictions.
One of Grieger's tiny portraits is titled "Ideological Camouflage" and it perfectly illustrates the work's conceptual problems. Inspired by Persian miniatures and Mexican religious paintings, Grieger floats enigmatic heads against enveloping abstract backgrounds. The work suggests a crisis of representation in a schizophrenic world, yet at the same time revels in its fetishistic aura. As a result, figurative painting is presented as both socially ailing and magically healthy, while the artist is left sitting comfortably on the fence. (Marc Richards Gallery, 8747 Melrose Ave., to Jan. 9.)