Robert Melee, Sept. 10-Oct. 10, 1998, at Andrew Kreps, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
Robert Marshall, Sept. 12-Oct. 31, 1998, at Richard Anderson Fine Arts, 453 West 17th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
What color are memories? To judge from his recent exhibition, Robert Melee's memories come in technicolor. On the other hand, in Robert Marshall's understated images of landscapes and interiors, the only thing to be seen are colorless reflections of the outside world.
At Andrew Kreps, Melee's exhibition included several wall pieces that look like paintings, but are actually made from bottle caps embedded in plaster. Painted in shiny enamel colors that could have been lifted from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, they become op art -- wavering dots arranged in stripes or squares like supergraphic patterns stenciled on clear plastic pillows. Hanging against the wall on one side of the gallery were three enormous curtains made from cotton stiffened into ponderous immobility with plaster, flour, water, bone emulsion and glue. These too are brightly colored with the same enamel hues.
Seen alone, the dot pieces could read as humorous commentaries on abstract painting. But the curtain sculptures nudged the show into a nostalgic send-up of modernist décor. The finishing touch was a mobile. Composed of steel discs enameled in turquoise and red orange, it rotated slowly, an airy contrast to the other heavy, almost gooey-looking work. The artist even coordinated his opening night outfit to go with his exhibition. He wore a white suit with thin beige stripes, red shoes and had a large shocking-pink daisy in his lapel.
A little further downtown at Richard Anderson was the first solo show of the artist and writer Robert Marshall, whose paintings and drawings were hung salon style. One cluster of works was on mirrors, the other was on mylar.
Marshall's rather nondescript landscapes and interiors are the opposite of "the picturesque." His subjects include empty hallways, computer workstations, lobbies and sections of apartment buildings with scruffy trees and vegetation seen from car or airplane windows -- the kind of ordinary, unnoticed places we pass on our way to somewhere else. Sometimes the images are quite delicate and pale, drawn on the mirrors with graphite or crayon. Other works are comparatively more substantial -- close-ups of tangled foliage rendered in heavy black paint.
Marshall first goes over the mirrors with a large brush loaded with gel medium. The resulting brush marks lend the mirrors a material substance that, along with the reflections and changing light, makes their silver surfaces seem to advance in front of his images. On the other hand, in his works on mylar, the surfaces tend to disappear, leaving only the marks Marshall makes upon them and the shadows they cast on the wall.
Marshall's works are souvenirs of our movements in space and time. His unusually reflective supports ensure that his pictures of temporary landscapes will themselves be subject to constant change, transformations that are much more interesting than any of the actual images he paints. Combined with the relative insubstantiality of the rendering, his silvery surfaces lend his insignificant images a distant resonance, turning them into a perfect metaphor for memory's work on the past.