This is Melini’s second show with 11R, and the first that will connect two visually distinct bodies of work, which have been exhibited separately but are considered by the artist to be complements in a unified practice. Both bodies of work – a series of hard-edged, geometrical paintings, and a series of gestural, impastoed paintings – are presented together side by side in the exhibition.
Melini’s hard-edged paintings use symmetry, pattern, and color to propose a complicated visual experience. While the works may appear formally concerned, errant lines of paint and other slips of the artist’s hand play down their rigor, steering the work away from an insistence on perfection. The featured pattern in these paintings is taken from the wallpaper of the artist’s childhood bedroom; besides this personal association, Melini is attracted to the pattern because of its universal, even generic, nature and its range of disparate connections, from printed fabrics to the modernist grid. Melini assimilates or nods towards art historical antecedents as well as decorative traditions without prioritizing either, mindful of how various forms draw a viewer into the image and signify something beyond the represented. The artist cites influences such as the construction of space in icon paintings by Cimabue and Duccio, the use of symmetry in paintings and quilts of Pennsylvania Dutch artists and craftsmen, and the colors and structures of Josef and Anni Albers, as well as Frank Stella. Guiding this inclusive experience are the works’ titles, which Melini composes by splicing lines from different poems.
Untitled gestural paintings, in the style that Melini debuted in his previous show at 11R, will hang alongside the hard-edged works for the first time. Atop an underlying grid, which in its painted transparencies continues the interest in geometry and color, Melini layers thick smears of paint through additive, deliberate moves. In juxtaposition, an affinity between the impasto here and the stray lines in the hard-edged pieces becomes evident, encouraging a closer inspection of surface across all the works, and perhaps even a reassessment of the prominence of the artist’s hand in the other series. Indeed, one way Melini conceives of the gestural work is as imagined magnifications of moments and incidents from the hard-edged paintings, rather than a radical departure.
Another shared quality of the two series, the hand-painted frame, evidences how Melini thinks continuously across both halves of his practice. Melini’s frames operate as a sort of viewfinder for the contained image and also fuse image and object, making the paintings functionally akin to a devotional piece; this connects the work even more directly to the artist’s interest in the relationship between the maker and viewer of revered objects. While the aim for the viewing experience is not strictly speaking spiritual, an intuitive spirit resonates in the process of construing and finding meaning. In this way, Melini’s practice, while conceptual overall in its acknowledgement of references and certain premeditations, is personal and felt in the instance of each image. In its entirety, the exhibition at 11R offers an encounter with geometry and color which reflects the micro and macro spaces we currently live in.