Melissa Meyer: Musical Metaphor
1. A presentation of abstract paintings by American painter Melissa Meyer
2. Melissa Meyer pits the rigorous modernist grid, conceived in the early twentieth century and revived by Minimal and Conceptual artists during the 1960s and 1970s, against the psychic, painterly gesture prominently associated with mid-century Abstract Expressionism
The lyrical nature of Melissa Meyer’s paintings betrays their carefully considered and diligent construction. Expressing infinite variations on a theme, Meyer deploys two contrasting, perhaps even competing, facets of modern painting. She pits the rigorous modernist grid, conceived in the early twentieth century and revived by Minimal and Conceptual artists during the 1960s and 1970s, against the psychic, painterly gesture prominently associated with mid-century Abstract Expressionism. In her recent work, Meyer continues to loosen the yoke of the grid, leaving its horizontal and vertical boundaries amorphous and fluid. Her grid is implied rather than delineated. She fills these open, fluid spaces with a riff on the grid’s apposite: the painterly gesture. Essentially, she relaxes the usually hieratic, regulatory nature of the oft confining lattice. At the same time, Meyer harnesses the psychological intensity, frequently associated with the masculine, that became a standard of mid-20th century abstraction. She controls her brush’s movements in a deftly measured manner reminiscent of Chinese calligraphic painting with all its literary and intellectual connotations. The qualities of Meyer’s gestural markings, while totally abstract, have been likened to written language and hieroglyphs. According to the artist, her marks are made with a purposeful sense of speed, ideally, as if created in one intensely controlled breath.
Such has been Meyer’s signature approach to her retooling of abstract painting since she began her career in the mid 1970s. This was precisely the time that painting as a medium and means of artistic creation had been, like G-d, pronounced dead. At the same time, the modern, 20th century invention of abstraction was said to have simply run out of steam. Meyer was among an important group of artists, many of them women, who engendered new energy into the ostensibly spent idea of modern, abstract painting. Like one vein of postmodern practice, she reformulates painting, demonstrating not only the continuing possibilities of that traditional medium, but also reimagining the modernist invention of non representational picture making. Her dialectical abstraction is at once a commentary on and critique of the past aspects of abstract painting, but also simultaneously a reinvention of it with full knowledge of gestural abstraction’s rich artistic history, its inherent chauvinist assumptions, as well as its endless aesthetic options.