By Show and Tell
By Bree Davies
By Bree Davies
By Cory Casciato
By Emilie Johnson
By Robin Edwards
By Bree Davis
By Josiah M. Hesse
Simon Zalkind, director of the Singer Gallery at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center, often looks to major local artists as a source for significant solo shows. Typically, these include work done over a broad sweep of time, which allows viewers to gain insight into the artist's oeuvre. Examples are Paul Gillis and Bill Stockman.
About two years ago, Zalkind got the idea to do a salute to Myron Melnick, an interesting choice considering that Melnick had been essentially inactive for years, though at one time he exhibited his distinctive work in galleries across the country.
The resulting show, Myron Melnick: Taking Shape: Works With Paper, is drop-dead gorgeous.
Zalkind wanted to feature Melnick because he was afraid the artist's formidable reputation and impressive body of work would be lost from the art world's consciousness — and of course he's right, as out of sight is out of mind. "Myron was always on my to-do list. But I was nervous because I hadn't seen his pieces in years," Zalkind says. "I was basically going on memory — and hoping that my memory had some accuracy. But when the works went up, I was so thrilled at how they looked. They were gorgeous."
When Zalkind's on, as he is with this Melnick show, he's really on, and he can transform the pathologically small and modest Singer space into a convincing imitation of a museum gallery. In fact, I'd say that had the Melnick show been presented at the MCA Denver or RedLine, it would qualify as one of the best individual efforts that either venue had ever mounted. (It's a shame that when Zalkind did do a show at the MCA, it was about a famous — and repulsive — Austrian artist, Hermann Netsch, rather than one of this city's art stars, which would have been so much more edifying.)
But come to think of it, the Singer is actually the perfect venue for this show because of Melnick's own associations with the Jewish Community Center, where the Singer is located, and the surrounding Hilltop neighborhood. Melnick, who was born in Denver in 1953, grew up just blocks away in an ultra-cool mid-century modern house.
"I used to come to the Jewish Community Center all the time," says Melnick. "I lived here, and I went to George Washington High School, where I got involved with ceramics through Mark Zamantakis." Though Melnick's parents hoped he'd become a dentist — "They thought I was good with my hands," says Melnick with a laugh — art, in particular ceramics, increasingly occupied his interest when he was a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He worked there with Tom Potter and Jim Lorio.
"In Boulder, I decided I wanted to be an artist; that's what I wanted to do," says Melnick, who did his graduate work at the University of Minnesota, where he worked closely with Warren MacKenzie, a giant in the studio pottery movement. "That, I think, was a really good experience. I was kind of lost before that time, I didn't know how to see, I didn't know how to express myself, but I had a really good foundation."
But it was at this time — he earned his MFA in 1978 — that Melnick began to experiment with paper. "I was making these thin ceramic plates, and they were a little too fragile sometimes, and someone gave me some paper pulp and I made some plates, and they took me a long time to finish. I rubbed some ceramic materials into the paper, and it stuck to the paper, and it was rich, and I was thinking, this is the way to go."
Thus began Melnick's nearly thirty-year career working with paper, either cast into sculptural forms or providing the basis for his monotypes. He stepped back from art almost a decade ago, though, to take over the family business, the Zephyr Lounge on East Colfax in Aurora, which he runs along with an adjacent restaurant and motel.
The Singer show isn't a retrospective; rather, Zalkind made his selections based on aesthetic considerations alone. The oldest pieces are from the late 1980s, and the newest works were done in the early 2000s, though a few were reworked just a year ago. Zalkind chose a large body of monotypes — the largest group ever presented together — along with several of Melnick's signature wall sculptures.
"The monotypes are Myron giving into the urge of making things beautiful, which is a quality that I still find to be attractive," Zalkind says. "And in the case of the sculptures, that the scale could be that heroic and be made of paper — they have tremendous heft and substance and solidity, but they are actually quite light."
The monotypes incorporate collage elements — sheets of waxed paper in some — and were done with artist and printmaker Kate McGuinness. Stylistically, they're neo-modern riffs on early abstraction, and they look astoundingly fresh now. They reveal in their dazzling palettes that Melnick is quite an accomplished colorist and an expert at creating a pleasing array of complementary tones.