Melvin Way’s meanderings offer the possibility of a parallel universe in “GAGA CITY”

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Melvin Way Untitled, 2003 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 7 x 3 inches

 

All image credits Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut (New York/Paris).

Melvin Way invented the Dell computer, founded collegiate and educational institutions all over the Northeastern United States, and wrote songs that were recorded and popularized by the Supremes. He had a ticket on the last Amtrak train that crashed near Philadelphia, but missed it, intentionally, because “something just wasn’t right.” Way’s enormously important intellectual and cultural accomplishments might explain the 6.2 million dollars he made last year. But what would you expect from a man who graduated high school fourteen times (ten times in South Carolina and four times in New York City) and who also happens to be “post-mortal?”

Melvin Way: Gaga City

June 7, 2015—July 19, 2015

Opening reception: Sunday, June 7, 2015, 6–8 PM

christian berst art brut (klein & berst)
95 rivington street
new york, ny 10002
www.christianberst.com

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Melvin Way Siwath, 2007 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 5.13 x 4.5 inches

Some of Melvin’s stories don’t quite add up, and private details about a patient’s life can’t be legally disclosed. So, we rely on the artist’s shifting explanations of the past, separating reality from fiction to the best of our ability. Despite some conflicting stories and timeline gaps, it is clear that Way has lived and traveled between South Carolina and New York since he was a child. In the early 1970s, he attended a technical college and played in a music group, composing funk ballads and playing gigs in the city. He also experimented with drugs, and has spent periods of time in and out of various city shelters and programs.

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Melvin Way Untitled, 2010 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 3.75 x 4.5 inches

In 1989, Way met Andrew Castrucci, an artist and educator, on Ward’s Island at a workshop run by Hospital Audiences Incorporated (HAI). The program included approximately one hundred men, but Castrucci took special interest in Way’s work. The two formed a friendship and creative relationship that continues today.

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Melvin Way Octavius, 2002 Ballpoint pen on paper 4.5 x 4.25 inches

Way’s process is private and portable. He carries his drawings with him for days, weeks, or years, working on them when time or inspiration allows. He draws on found pieces of paper with ballpoint pen, often wrapping his work in Scotch tape—probably to preserve them as they are transferred among books, magazines, pockets, bags, and drawers. Way’s drawings look like copied textbook chemical formulas, but do not ultimately describe any particular substance known to man.

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Melvin Way Molten Lava, 2011 Ballpoint pen on paper 3 x 3.25 inches

Way’s improvisational and scientific meanderings offer the possibility of a parallel universe—call it Gaga City—where the basic rules that govern our world are displaced, erased, re-drawn, re-configured, and covered in tape. Those new truths are stashed deep in the artist’s pockets or hidden away somewhere for safekeeping. Way’s drawings are frequently referred to as “cryptograms,” but by definition, cryptograms can be solved, whereas Way’s drawings have no beginning, end, or decodable message. Instead, they speak to the infinite possibilities of both imagination and science, visually describing other realities and ways of seeing.

—Phillip March Jones, Director

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Melvin Way Ginko Nut Selenium, 2014 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 4.75 x 11.5 inches

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Melvin Way O’Sairen, 2004 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 3.5 x 5.5 inches

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Melvin Way Uniformity Symmetry, 2003 Ballpoint pen on paper 3.5 x 5.5 inches

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Melvin Way We, 2012 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 8.87 x 3 inches

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Melvin Way Pterirs Planets, 2007 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 5 x 4.5 inches

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Melvin Way CitronXM, 2014 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 9.5 x 4.5 inches

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Melvin Way Perpetual, 2009 Ballpoint pen on paper 4.25 x 5.5 inches

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Melvin Way Untitled, 2014 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 11.5 x 3.5 inches

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Melvin Way Untitled, 2015 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 6.37 x 5.13 inches

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Melvin Way Active, 2003 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 2.75 x 8.5 inches

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Carborane; Orthodontics, 2013 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 6.75 x 3 inches

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Melvin Way Dictographs, 2014 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 5.63 x 2.87 inches

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Melvin Way Formula, 2009 Ballpoint pen on paper 3.5 x 6 inches