Ron Milewicz: Recent Paintings
George Billis Gallery
511 West 25th Street,
October 4- 29, 2005
This review first appeared in the New York Sun, October 6, 2005
You think you know what cityscapes look like until you view them through Ron Milewicz’s eyes. I can’t walk down a treeless street in Long Island City on a hot day without seeing it bleached by the flash of yellow light that envelopes “Citiwide, Summer” (2004). The color scheme of “Citiwide, South” (2004) is true to the heated intensity of urban life, a fidelity that points beyond verisimilitude. In August, nothing is more credible than deep-shadowed buildings in fuschia that pulse against torrid orange skies.
Mr. Milewicz’s urban panoramas, on exhibition at George Billis Gallery, are real to the extent that each maps a recognizable site. (He moves his studio around to gain access to fresh views.) But color is totally expressive, built primarily on a disciplined binary system of near-complements or analogous pairs. It is a striking approach that can veer into the decorative occasionally. But at their best, Mr. Milewicz’s rebellious color schemes, freed from naturalism, take us very far east of Eden. They startle and unsettle, evoking the diabolism of the city rather than the rationality of urban planners.
Field of vision is equally pregnant. Exaggerated lateral perspective places subtle emphasis on the tilt of the earth. Urban geometries of steel, stone and concrete, poised on the curve of a spinning globe, are less stable than they appear. The city, where human works displace other signs of human life, is ultimately as transient as its invisible inhabitants.
“Citiwide, Late Afternoon” (2005), close to 11 feet long, is physically imposing and psychologically unnerving. Blues and yellows-an acidic lemon plus a deep cadmium that stops short of orange-combine to cast a sulfurous tinge over a city that dominates man and nature. The Manhattan skyline fills the distance, a solitary fortress encircled by the sweep of elevated train tracks. Grating tonalities raise this no-man’s-land to the level of myth, reminding us that the first builder of cities was Cain, acting in response to divine curse. Urban predicament is as old as Babel.
Recent paintings develop this mythic dimension with several figural references to Laocoon, Icarus and other tales from the Greeks. But unconvincing figuration distracts from Mr. Milewicz’s achievement . The abrupt literalism of his reliance on superhero dolls as models narrows the significance of his customary pictorial power.