ITS LAST MOVE
Opening reception Friday, September 18th, 7-10 PM
David Castillo Gallery is proud to present Its Last Move, a solo show by Robert Melee. Through painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed-media installations, Melee reactivates questions that patina his milieu: How does materiality feel? How does form perform? The artist’s responses are often distinguished for contextualizing meditations on minimalism, op art, and/or theater within the dark domicile of suburban tract housing, pricking the site of familial relationships as they unraveled or as their unraveling is remembered.
A series of photographs taken by the artist on the eve of selling his childhood home comprise the exhibition’s centrifugal force. The photographs document the house— empty shelves, bare walls, the ghostly stamps of furniture on carpet— with neither effrontery nor grace, criticism nor sentiment. Guided by their formal qualities, notably a lattice of beiges, mauves, and vermillion, Melee collages, crops, rotates, and mounts the images, often attaching this territory to segments of track lighting or sculpted and painted fiberglass curtains. These artworks mark a reorientation of the photograph in the artist’s practice from a supplementary sculptural object to the site of sculpture itself.
Fabricated curtain formations appear throughout Its Last Move, framing the exhibition as an imminent curtain call on adolescence (his, before moving to New York in the 1980’s), autonomy (his mother’s, before moving to a senior residence), as well as the fixed boundary between memorialization and celebration, nostalgia and immediacy, comedy and tragedy. Whether over a magician’s campy tabernacle, a mourning shroud, or the windows left dressed at the insistence of Melee’s mother, curtains are a permeable border, signifying obscuration as well as revelation.
Last Move Curtain shows the artist’s signature marbling of enamel and fiberglass over wood. Similar mark-making partitions works on paper, exhibited for the first time as studies for sculptures likeUntitled Draped Figure, in which a mannequin head and torso are bound to wooden architecture with ropes of fiberglass and enamel paint. The emergent figure is equal parts Venus de Milo, The Nightmare, Virgin Mary, mother. Inter Gilded Draped Substitution features six irregular stalactite and stalagmite panels, a mine of 23 carat gold, enamel, plaster, and the artist’s hallmark beer bottle caps on wood.
The aesthetic phylum of curtains invades Its Last Move like kudzu, at junctures as dense and as violent. In a series of sculptures titled Disco Tray, vintage silver trays are ensconced in a fungal accretion of enamel and plaster. Substance abuse and surface abuse seem to solidify in these examples of domestic body horror, both erotic and grotesque, perverse and affirmative.
Another series, Lamp, wraps the anatomy of freestanding lamps in plaster or fiberglass and candies them in armatures of enamel: lava dark, mutant green, boil pink. Although non-functioning, one is attracted to the gruesome lamps like a moth, a dangerous desire to fry in the uncanny between a familiar silhouette and an untenable surface, between painting and sculpture. Like Melee’s former investigations into found household objects, Lamp raises questions of class and associated taste. The series also gestures toward narratives of conflict and neglect. In order to engage pre-linguistic experiences like death and dying, the tenants of Its Last Move, we employ metaphor. Metaphorization is arguably the last move invited by Melee’s artworks and the personal history they beckon.
Robert Melee lives and works in New York. He studied at the School of Visual Arts, NYC. Solo exhibitions include White Cube and Sutton Lane, London; Robert Melee’s UNIT, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Currents 31: Robert Melee, The Milwaukee Art Museum; Robert Melee Sculpture, City Hall Park, NYC; and Arena Mexico, Guadalajara; among numerous others. His work has been included in group exhibitions around the world including Greater New York,P.S.1, NYC; Adaptive Behavior, New Museum of Contemporary Art, NYC; I am a Camera, The Saatchi Collection, London; Family, Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT; Make It Now, The Sculpture Center, New York; Portugal Arte 10, Portugal Biennial, Lisbon; Wild Exaggeration, The Grotesque Body in Contemporary Art, Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa; and others. Among his museum permanent collections are: The Whitney Museum, Haifa Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Museum of Art, and others.