David Castillo Gallery presents 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, and 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 like Untitled 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.