Critics’ Picks

Robert Melee, Portrait of Debs with Fans, 2015, ceiling fans on inkjet print, 58 x 116 x 11 1/2”.

Robert Melee, Portrait of Debs with Fans, 2015, ceiling fans on inkjet print, 58 x 116 x 11 1/2”.

New York

Robert Melee

Andrew Kreps | 22 Cortlandt Alley
22 Cortlandt Alley
January 9–February 13, 2016

There are a lot of works in Robert Melee’s show, and various kinds of it are mounted on the walls, or, it almost seems, pushed against them by the explosion of Bower Pool, 2016, an overturned above-ground swimming pool that hangs from the gallery’s ceiling, hemorrhaging decorations. The glittery trappings of Christmas, Mardi Gras, birthdays, graduations, and Pride cascade from the backyard tub like a piñata frozen in time at its climax. Or, as per the title, it’s a nest: Bowerbirds decorate with natural baubles and bright garbage to attract mates.

In hotels, restaurants, and sometimes homes, ornamental panels with aesthetic purpose waver in status between artwork, decoration, and fixture. Much of Melee’s attractive work has that ambiguous presence. His “Inter Guilded Semi-Quasi Substitution” pieces (all works 2015) have a high-end modern-décor, puzzle-piece feel (“Polynesian” in a Brady Bunch way); the “Untitled Bower Curtain” paintings are bubblegummy, confetti-based takes on drippy high modernism with a dash of your mom’s friend’s fiber art; and the “Atlantic City” wall-mounted photosculptures, made from images of hotel lobbies and casinos, actually incorporate light fixtures. The latter are the least friendly pieces, with the hardware and glass of chandeliers jutting out from the folded space of angular photocollages. Portrait of Debs with Fans is similarly disorienting, featuring two cheap ceiling fans. As the only portrait, it’s a revealing wildcard. In a storyboard-like collage, fashion designer David Quinn, in boudoir maquillage and various states of undress, appears haphazardly wielding a paintbrush. Like a lonely bowerbird working to seduce with what he can find, he manages to pull things together—or rather, Melee does, perfectly, matching Quinn’s tinsel garland to the fans’ fake-fancy gold accents.