Gabriel Mills
WEDDING TUX, 2022
oil on canvas
73 x 73 in. (185.4 x 185.4 cm.)
Gabriel Mills
Baptized In The Garden By The Breath Of Pain, 2022
oil on wood panel (triptych), framed
24 x 62 1/8 in. (61 x 157.8 cm.)
Gabriel Mills
MY LIFE IN FIVE PARTS, 2022
oil on wood panel (triptych), framed
24 x 62 1/8 in. (61 x 157.8 cm.)
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Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March

October 19-November 19, 2022

Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March. This exhibition opened 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, Mills 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.

Installation view of Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March (October 19-November 19, 2022) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

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 Mills’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. Mills 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, Mills 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, Mills 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, Mills employs unconventional ratios to create dissonance through opposition, thus compelling a viewer to slow down. Another element of Mills’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, Mills ascribes events to be the most significant markers and indicators of one’s experience of “time”. The juxtapositions of Mills’s triptychs grapple with time, presence, and non-linear narrative through a conventionally devotional format with art historical ties to religious paintings of threes.

Installation view of Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March (October 19-November 19, 2022) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Dealing in contradictions, Mills challenges himself to no longer be surprised by obstacles and paradoxes; instead, he is accepting and finds harmony. Like a dancer, Mills persists with determination in his work; yet, the final performance—or painting in Mills’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, Mills 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, Mills stated: “To be a butterfly is symbolic of choosing humbleness, weakness, and kindness—knowing there is strength in that.”

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

Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March ran at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from October 19-November 19, 2022. The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery at info@alexanderberggruen.com.

A forthcoming catalogue published on the occasion of Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March will feature an essay by Paul D’Agostino, an interview of the artist by Danni Shen, and a poem by Rebecca Mills.

On the occasion of Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March, we’re delighted to share Marcus World Soul’s performance of his song “Platonic” in the gallery.

Film and Edits: Nikolai Berger
Photos: Dario Lasagni
Music: Marcus World Soul and Michelle Zarco

About the Artist

This show marks Gabriel Mills’s first solo exhibition with Alexander Berggruen following his inclusion in the gallery’s group show Elana Bowsher, Vicente Matte, Gabriel Mills (June 2-July 14, 2021).

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; and Pelham Art Center, Pelham, NY; among others. Mills is included in Black Abstractionists: From Then Til’ Now (October 8, 2022-January 29, 2023), curated by Dexter Wimberly at the Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX. 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; The Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX; New York Historical Society, New York, NY; X Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing, CH; and Susan and Michael Hort Collection, New York, NY. Mills lives and works in New Haven, CT.

Gabriel Mills
The Lily Of The Field And The Bird Of The Air, 2022
oil on canvas (triptych)
73 x 182 in. (185.4 x 462.3 cm.)
Photos: Dario Lasagni
Gabriel Mills
Sandman’s Crygarden, 2022
oil on wood panel (triptych), framed
24 x 56 in. (61 x 142.2 cm.)
Photos: Dario Lasagni
Gabriel Mills
All The Dancers Twirling In The Rain, Whisper Gently That I’m Out Of Place, But Today, I’m Reborn, 2022
oil on canvas
73 x 73 in. (185.4 x 185.4 cm.)
Photos: Dario Lasagni
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Installation view of Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March (October 19-November 19, 2022) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

On the occasion of Alexander Berggruen’s exhibition Gabriel Mills: Butterfly March (October 19-November 19, 2022), we are delighted to share a new editorial feature by Paul D’Agostino, PhD, an artist, writer, curator, and translator. D’Agostino delves into the range of painterly approaches Mills employs to achieve transcendence through his artistic agency of metaphorical metamorphoses.

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