Fitzrovia Gallery is proud to present Erasures, a solo exhibition of old and new work by Rafael Melendez (b. 1970, Fresno, CA). The title summarises the body of work in focus, fresh out of the studio and the artist’s technically most complex endeavour this far. Alluding to post-war American artist Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’, the theme is not a repeat. Rather, it concerns structures generated with the rise of digital devices and unprecedented distribution of information.
Making drawings which are then erased with a squeegee, Melendez rejects his role as a messenger of information. He systematically deletes the signs that make up his pictorial vocabulary. A flick through one of his many notebooks reveals a stream of sketches of patterns, text, bodies with elongated limbs, and swift takes on works by Philip Guston, an artist that continues to influence Melendez. All of these appear in earlier work, a small selection of which is on show as part of Erasures.
The method, developed during second stages of lockdown, soon took on a contemplative dimension for the artist. Each erased drawing became a silent and highly personal protest against art as part of an image distribution culture. He shifted his sense of ownership to the physical drawing, exploring the possibilities of the medium in mounting it onto aluminium and canvas. So, there is presence without context or function. In Melendez’ words: ‘This new body of work demonstrates existence independent of relationships. They are also a continuation of my Art for Art’s Sake series in that they are beautiful objects. I think of them as stylised renderings of pondering on why and how we exist, and an important part of my pseudo-nihilistic approach to culture. Visually, they relate to the monochromatic works I made in an earlier response to the pandemic. Although this last series is more charged as I have had more time to interpret the impact of these new circumstances on me as a person and figured out how to incorporate that in my work. The monochromatic drawings were an immediate, emotional reaction to what we were faced with, an urge to find a new expression for the transhumanism that in fact has occupied me for a very long time. As far as ideology go, they are on the other side of the spectrum from the anthropomorphic figures I made earlier in my career.’
Melendez attended the New Genres program at The Art Institute of San Francisco before moving to New York and eventually London in 2018. Movements found within the modernist tradition, in particular Dadaism and Surrealism, but also Art Brut and automatic drawing, where the subconscious meets the stylised, have been and are important sources of inspiration for his practice.
Melendez lives and works in London, UK. His works have been shown at Susquehanna Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Oakland University Art Gallery, Diego Rivera Gallery, Longwood Art Gallery, Bronx Art Space, Hell Gate Arts, Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, AC Institute, Space 776, Present Company, Momenta, The Accessible Art Fair Brussels, Swab Art Fair Barcelona and Stand4 Gallery
27 April – 1 May, 12 – 6pm