After covering each canvas with brightly colored fields punctuated by stylized flowers and organic squiggles, Millei slathers over most of them with a dense layer of dark paint that has the deadening presence of tar or lava.
He sometimes rakes these amorphous blobs with a comb-like tool, carving furrows into their surfaces. At other times he drags his paint-loaded brush across various sections, crossing out whatever is under them. When he does this, he manages to make oil paint look as if it's made of melted plastic, like cheap tubes of acrylic.
Unfortunately, Millei's blotted-out paintings too closely resemble Julian Schnabel's similarly configured images. With one foot firmly planted in the New Yorker's tired gestures and the other in Charles Arnoldi's bland abstractions, Millei leaves himself too little room to do his own thing. Either more or less confusion is needed if this body of work is to have enough traction to take viewers somewhere.
Ace Gallery, 5514 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (323) 935-4411, through September. Closed Sundays and Mondays.