Gabriel Mills at Alexander Berggruen / NYC

Butterfly March

Gabriel Mills

19 Oct – 19 Nov 2022

Alexander Berggruen

1018 Madison Ave., Fl. 3, New York, NY 10075

Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am-6 pm

Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March

October 19-November 19, 2022

Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March. This exhibition will open Wednesday, October 19, 2022 with a 5-7 pm reception at the gallery (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3, New York, NY).

Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March features paintings that find peace within paradox, emphatically embracing a self containing multitudes. Driven by divinity, Christianity, numerology, and spirituality, Gabriel Mills juxtaposes images and non-images that are ostensibly discrete, articulating the divergent dimensions of oneself. Through his faith, Gabriel accepts challenges and internal struggle, honoring the process of moving through pain and passion with light, form, color, and composition. Enabling himself to hold these capacious expressions and experiences contemporaneously, the artist affirms exhausting every facet of one’s agency and creative pursuits.

The action of painting—to construct, to remove, to add weight, to make light, to swirl, or in Richard Serra’s words about his sculptures, “[to lift], to roll, to crease, to curve”—becomes symbolic in Gabriel’s work. (1) The artist begins with thick broad layers of paint that he then refines into shorter gestures and precise color arrangements, resulting in topographical surfaces that balance texture and atmosphere. Gabriel painted FUNERAL MARCH through slowly built, dense layers, adding heavy weight to the work. Meanwhile, in his painting All The Dancers Twirling In The Rain Whisper Gently That I’m Out Of Place But Today I’m Reborn, Gabriel finalized the work by scraping away paint. Here, in the artist’s words, the painting evolves “towards lightness and vibrance after removing a burden.” The works that result from this treatment of dense layering and sometimes scraping away become simultaneously celestial and terrestrial as their form and colors approach ascendency while the physicality of the paint keeps them grounded. In these paintings, Gabriel examines the psychological consequences of this incompatibility of the desire to ascend in a body that is physically unable to do so.

As he continues to work within the structure of triptychs, Gabriel employs unconventional ratios to create dissonance through opposition, thus compelling a viewer to slow down. Another element of Gabriel’s triptychs that will implore a viewer to linger is the artist’s resistance to linearity and lack of apparent connections within the arrangement of the panels. Although the panels feel continuous due to the lack of space between them, these rifts in compositions and the suffocated space between them act as abrupt events of change. Indeed, Gabriel ascribes events to be the most significant markers and indicators of one’s experience of “time”. The juxtapositions of Gabriel’s triptychs grapple with time, presence, and non-linear narrative through a conventionally devotional format with art historical ties to religious paintings of threes.  

Dealing in contradictions, Gabriel challenges himself to no longer be surprised by obstacles and paradoxes; instead, he is accepting and finds harmony. Like a dancer, Gabriel persists with determination in his work; yet, the final performance—or painting in Gabriel’s case—appears to be an effortless, gentle, graceful dance. This mindful, tenacious approach to painting is a devotional practice to himself, God, and the paint. Speaking about the role of faith in his work, Gabriel stated: “Each mark is a thought, each thought is a mark. Painting is an extension and affirmation of my being.”

Humans often find meaning, purpose, and reward through struggle. As one grows through even the darkest of circumstances, light emerges. Metaphorically marching through life with mindfulness to consistently improve oneself and transcend their ego, one embodies the life of a butterfly. Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March is a procession of metamorphosis that encapsulates and commemorates the multitudes of one’s self, including inner conflict, inconsistencies, and mortality. Speaking about his drive to continue to better himself by virtue of religion and painting, Gabriel stated: “To be a butterfly is symbolic of choosing humbleness, weakness, and kindness—knowing there is strength in that.” 

Gabriel Mills (b. 1992, New Rochelle, NY) received an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from the Yale School of Art, New Haven, CT and a BFA in Illustration and Art History from the University of Hartford, Hartford, CT. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; El Barrio’s Artspace PS109, New York, NY; Museum of Arts and Culture, New Rochelle, NY; LoSpazio, Turin, Italy; Alexander Berggruen, New York, NY; Friends Indeed, San Francisco, CA; François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA; Green Hall Gallery, New Haven, CT; La Bodega Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; and ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA; among others. Gabriel will be included in a forthcoming exhibition at the Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX Black Abstractionists: From Then Til’ Now (October 8, 2022-January 29, 2023), curated by Dexter Wimberly. He was an artist in residence at MASS MoCA. The artist’s work is included in the public collections of Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL; Jimenez-Colon Collection, Ponce, PR; and Susan and Michael Hort Collection, New York, NY. Gabriel lives and works in New Haven, CT.

(1) Richard Serra on his 1967 sculpture To Lift, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008.