Artist Trace Miller is hoping New York will be his kind of town

January 10, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Trace Miller's first show in New York will open today, and he's not at all blase about it. After all, this might put him on the road to a national reputation.

"I'm very excited," he says, sitting in his Woodberry studio with the 16 new paintings he's produced for the show. "I'm thrilled to be seen in the mecca of the art world, in the lion's den -- to be gobbled up, or accepted. It can be a validation of almost 10 years of work."

Miller, 39, has won unstinted local praise for his beautifully executed, subtle paintings since his first major show at the George Ciscle Gallery in 1987.

When Ciscle closed in 1989, Miller was picked up by the C. Grimaldis Gallery, considered the leading commercial dealer in Baltimore. His shows have continued to be successes critically and financially. "Every show has almost sold out," says gallery owner Constantine Grimaldis.

Beginning today, Miller will have his first New York one-man show -- a month-long exhibit at the Kouros Gallery, at 23 E. 73rd St. on the posh Upper East Side. A respected New York gallery that has shown well-known artists including Theodoros Stamos, Reuben Nakian and Dimitri Hadji, Kouros is "a great space, TC great spot and a great beginning," Grimaldis says. "I'm looking for this to be the beginning of a national career."

The New York show didn't come out of the blue. Grimaldis and Kouros owners Angelos and Charlotte Camillos have shown each other's artists before. Kouros has shown Grimaldis star Grace Hartigan and Grimaldis has shown Kouros sculptor Bruno Romeda.

"We try to have a regular stable and show their work," Mrs. Camillos says. "It's not often we take on a new artist. We had seen Trace's work [in Baltimore] and thought we might like to do a show up here. His sensibility is in keeping with the spirit of the gallery."

"I like the mystery, the finesse, the surprise element in his work," Mr. Camillos adds. "I think the current work is mature and very adequate for New York."

Always an artist loaded with talent, Miller has matured over the last year and a half. His earlier works combined autobiographical and art historical references in paintings that showcased his technical ability. There seemed at times to be too much of bravura effects.

His show at Grimaldis last May, however, revealed an artist of new depth who was producing more introspective art. "And he has taken more steps for this show," Grimaldis says.

Miller's painstakingly worked canvases achieve a balance between the figurative and the abstract. They deal by implication with the chaos of the world and the isolation of the individual. He says his recent work has become more soul-searching. "I've tried to eliminate all external sources and I'm striving to find out what's in me," he says.

A native of Johnstown, Pa., Miller has lived in Baltimore since the early 1980s and graduated from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in 1986. Since then his star has risen steadily locally. Now he's eager to see what happens in New York, where his works will be on sale for $1,200 to $8,000 -- the same as for his recent Baltimore show.

"I hope to sell things, to find a few more collectors, and I hope I'll be noticed critically, for better or worse," he says. "New York -- if you're going to be a serious artist, it's the place you have to compete in, for selling and being written up. It's part of your career as an artist."

But will New York notice? "We hope for reviews," says Grimaldis. "I hope there will be a notice in [the magazine] Art News, and in other periodicals as well. And why not the New York Times? We're trying."

Mrs. Camillos remains cautious about that. "There are a huge amount of galleries and museums, there are not that many reviewers, and there are other papers aside from the Times," she says. "It's easier to have a notice in one of the magazines, such as Art in America or Art News."

There's also the possibility that the work won't sell well, that notices will be unfavorable, or both. Miller has thought about that.

"I kind of have that nature -- to be prepared for the worst," he says. "I have high hopes, but I have to set myself up for possible disaster."

The important thing, he says, is to make whatever happens work for him. "When I get criticism, I react to it in my head before I go back into the studio. If it's valid, it's something for me to consider. If the worst happens, it's certainly not going to keep me from continuing. It's only going to be turned into an eventual positive."


What: "Trace Miller: New Work"

Where: Kouros Gallery, 23 E. 73rd St., New York

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Feb. 11

Call: (212) 288-5888

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