Irrepressible: The Paintings of Melissa Meyer

Meyer 1

Melissa Meyer, Inky (2013), oil on canvas, 60″ x 78″; courtesy Lennon, Weinberg Inc.

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A version of this essay originally appeared in a brochure accompanying Melissa Meyer; New Paintings, a 2001 exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery. It is posted here on the occasion of Melissa Meyer; Recent Work at Lennon, Weinberg Inc. (until February 15).

Few brushstrokes in contemporary art declare themselves as irrepressibly as those of Melissa Meyer.

Translucent and expansive, Meyer’s signature squiggles move across the canvas with a lighter-than-air élan. These marks can be likened to calligraphy or doodling, but only if it’s understood that such comparisons are convenient rather than conclusive. Her brushstrokes are, after all, too independent to relinquish themselves to symbol and too driven to be tagged as automatism. They may unfurl, stretch, shimmy and skitter, but they do so with purpose and personality. One of Meyer’s clubby lines will snarl itself into a bewildered knot; another wiggles with brazen impetuosity. A third lopes nonchalantly, holding its own between neighbors who are, if not quarrelsome, then muscular enough to brook any guff.

Mayer 2Melissa Meyer, Devlin (2013), oil on canvas, 70″ x 80″; courtesy Lennon, Weinberg Inc.

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Each of the canvases is predicated on a grid that, however informal in delineation, retains a compositional authority. This structural arbiter is then overlaid and augmented by Meyer’s brushwork. She handles the disjunction between organization and abandon with a dexterity so exuberantly off-the-cuff that it ceases to be a disjunction at all. Amiably insisting that discipline and freedom need not be absolutes, Meyer reconciles the irreconcilable. When a rush of red overlaps its box-like compartment, it states its case decisively but doesn’t dishonor its surroundings. Similarly, when a wash of blue envelops a drawling skein of green, it does so with the calm embrace of a blessing, not the admonishing finality of negation. Meyer posits a pictorial and, by inference, philosophical concord that is forever open to flux.

Meyer’s work refuses to buy into the shopworn argument that the harsher the medicine, the better it is for you. She knows that artistic worth isn’t measured in provocation alone and that pleasure can be its own profound reward. Her paintings–jubilant, buoyant and often tender–are a source of sustenance. We willingly lose ourselves in their tangled delights.

© 2001 Mario Naves

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