ARTIST:

Robert Melee

Download Artist’s CV

Robert Melee
Party Girl Mommy-Popping, 1995/2000
Black and white photograph
Image size 31.5 x 26.6cm

Robert Melee
Unit 1, 2000
Multi-media video unit and black and white photographs
243.8 x 243.8cm

Intimacy, kitsch, sexuality, and subculture are integral themes of Robert Melee’s work. Taking his relationship to his outlandish mother as his subject, Melee’s photos, videos, installations, and performances blur the boundaries between private life and theatre. Using lurid 70s furniture Melee’s Units 1 & 2 provide a stage of eccentric domesticity: lined with personal photographs and home videos they display the mementos of his unorthodox family. Entrenched in queer culture, Melee’s work is a celebration of difference, revealing an alternative lifestyle with endearing and unabashed candour.

Robert Melee
Unit 2, 2000
Multi-media video unit and black and white photographs
243.8 x 243.8cm

Robert Melee
Self Portrait, 2000
Slip cover, gilded frame, and black and white photographs
243.8 x 137.2cm

Making the most of embarrassment, Robert Melee’s Self Portrait encapsulates all the cringe-worthy sentiments of family photography. Inlaid within a multi-window frame, the same image of Melee’s face is replicated in each space: dull-eyed, bad haircut, painstakingly self-conscious. Reminiscent of Warhol’s multiples, Melee offers his portrait as both icon and keepsake, magnifying the nakedness of personal disclosure as a generic and empty sentiment.

Robert Melee
Mommy, 2000
Slip cover, gilded frame and photographs
213.4 x 137.2cm

When it comes to humiliating mother stories, Robert Melee wins hands down. In his photo tribute Mommy, Melee enshrines the best and the worst of his nearest and dearest: mum boozing, in the bath, as sex kitten, cabaret diva, and Madonna with her adult naked son on her lap. In portraying his maman in all her overwhelming glory, Melee exposes a familial melodrama of Sweet Baby Jane proportions, offering a heart-wrenchingly honest portrait of mother-son love, and all its resplendent dysfunction.

Robert Melee
Smoking, 1996
Framed photographs in plastic slip covers
83.8 x 48.3cm

Throughout Melee’s work is a flirtation between reality and fantasy: family photographs look like film stills, scenarios appear scripted, and people seem as grotesque caricatures playing out clichéd roles. Using life-as-stage, Melee’s work expounds relational dysfunction, drawing the viewer as hostage-voyeur into the entangled drama. With positions firmly drawn, each party plays up to expectation, identity is validated and aggrandised through co-dependence, and all are drawn into the tragic-comic pantomime. In Smoking, random snapshots of the artist and his mother sucking fags are framed as out-takes of a life; glamourised and forgotten footage from a sad, camp movie lovingly dredged from the archive, begging for one last applause.

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Thursday, 15 April 2021: COVID-19 / CORONAVIRUS UPDATE:

Following the UK Government’s latest announcement and easing of restrictions, Saatchi Gallery aims to open its galleries from Wednesday, 19 May 2021 with access to our Ground Floor exhibitions Artificial Isolation and Philip Colbert: Lobsteropolis.

Our summer headline exhibition, JR: Chronicles, will open across two floors of the Gallery on 4 June through to 3 October 2021. You can pre-book your tickets here.

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