Robert Melee’s Town and Country
Susan Sontag explains in her seminal essay “Notes on Camp” that the “essence of ‘camp’ is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”. Thus is born Robert Melee’s Town and Country, an installation created during a three-month residency at MOCA Tucson which straddles the line between highbrow and lowbrow. Creating sensuous installations from everyday materials, Melee’s obsession with the accumulation of cast-off and familiar items is seen in the relationship between the indoor and outdoor spaces of the exhibition—embracing colloquial opposites that allow for two bodies of work to develop in both dialogue and contrast. In “Town,” Melee creates a massive installation of cardboard boxes, painted in hi-gloss enamel and stacked in various compositions suggestive of cityscapes. Ranging from 4’ to 14’ feet high, these moving boxes—normally relegated to a life of back and forth—further the conversation between painting and sculpture. The installation forms a psychological playground in which one can experience a new analysis of the everyday, one in which the viewer is surrounded by that which is both uncannily familiar and disarmingly strange. In “Country,” Melee returns to a series produced in 2007 of monumental bronze sculptures. The abstracted figures, imposing in scale and durable in material, are vivid, nude reimaginings of the classic scarecrow. Exhibited alongside are new, nocturnal skyscapes, pulsating compositions achieved by painting thousands of enamel dots on 4’ x 5’ sheets of black painted aluminum, as well as two new works from Melee’s Bottlecap series, produced by nailing caps from beer bottles into plywood, coated in plaster, and embellished with 23 karat gold, aluminum leaf, and enamel. These formal and sociological works evoke both the history of craft and painting in materiality and execution.
Robert Melee was born in 1966 and lives and works in New York City. He received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and has had recent solo exhibitions at Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus OH (2016); Andrew Kreps Gallery, NYC (2016); David Castillo Gallery, Miami FL (2015); HIgher Pictures, NYC (2014); David Kordansky, Los Angeles CA (2010); Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI (2004); The Corcoran Museum, Washington D.C. (2001); and White Cube, London, UK; 2000. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions including at The Contemporary Art Museum, Houston TX; Portugal Biennial; Haifa Museum of Art Israel; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. His recent 2016 solo exhibition Semi-Quasi-Bower Recreational was positively reviewed in Art in America, The New York Times, and ArtForum. He is currently represented by Andrew Kreps Gallery and David Castillo Gallery.