Oct 31, 2011

REVIEW | Robert Melton, Hungry Heart, McNay Museum, San Antonio

Robert Melton, Hungry Heart, 2009, still images of HD video, 2:27 minutes.
I feel like I was meant to see this exhibit. I had searched other art galleries but for some reason the McNay was the only one I kept coming back to. I had no idea what I was going to find or what type of subject matter I was planning on blogging about. I had initially been excited about seeing the Nightmare Before Christmas exhibit but that was before Robert Melton. Melton is a photographer and videographer who has received both a bachelor and a masters of fine arts from the University of Texas in Austin. He creates each of his scenes in his videos himself using his background as a painter and his dramatic composition and lighting skills.
From the moment that I walked into the Pat and Tom Frost Octagon of the McNay Museum I heard a loud banging noise that immediately caught my attention. As I looked to my right in the dimmer part of the octagon there was a bench sat in front of a wall with an image projected onto it of a black leather chair with two buttons like eyes peering out at me and directly above the chair was a hole in the burnt orange colored wall that appeared to have been punched through.
Robert Melton, Home, 2010, still image of HD video, 58 seconds.
I was so intrigued that I couldn't take my eyes off of the image and proceeded to sit down, continuing to hear the banging. With each bang the entire frame shook rather violently until finally a light fixture fell down and swung gently still attached by its cord. The light fixture falling was so abrupt that it scared me and made me jump. I continued to sit and watch as four other videos played on a loop. The space that the videos were played in made me feel like I was a horse with blinders. I couldn't look or see anything else but the videos. Melton titles his five part video series Hungry Heart and it includes videos entitled Hungry Heart, Equalizer, Home, Last Resort, and Somebody's Watching Me. This video series as well as his others can be seen on his website, robertmelton.net. The video that I saw first was the one called Home created in 2010 and is fifty-eight seconds long. Hungry Heart, the images you see above, was the first of this series created in 2009 in which you see an electric drill drilling holes around this outlet from the other side of the wall more and more aggressively until finally a fist abruptly punches out the outlet. In the background the song "Hungry Heart" is lightly playing throughout the video. Other videos also contain music such as in Somebody's Watching Me there is gentle elevator music that plays louder and louder until a truck comes crashing into the room. The truck is blaring the song "Somebody's Watching Me". There is a incredible tension that Melton creates in such a short amount of time. He creates a sense of danger as well as a sense of humor in his work which is what I felt as I was watching each of his videos. I kept thinking "What's going to happen next?!" My favorite video of this series was entitled Last Resort and what the viewer doesn't quite figured out until about one minute into the video is that it is actually going in reverse. All you see in this video is that something is on fire.
Robert Melton, Last Resort, 2010, still image from HD video, 2:11 minutes.
Melton explains that "fire looks virtually the same backwards as it does in real time." It isn't until the very end that you discovered that what is actually burning is a smoke detector and as the smoke detector comes back together the sound of the warning beeps that you hear when it goes off is what Melton leaves you with. His videos display a sense of irony like in Last Resort when you find out that it's actually a smoke detector burning. Robert Melton's work makes the viewer feel engaged and the setting of this series, being in the home, especially makes these mini narratives realistic. His videos are explosive in a way that the action builds but they also have subtle components to them. As simple as these scenes are, they are still very capable of holding your attention and making you really interested in not only seeing them but seeing more. That is what I really liked about this series of videos by Robert Melton. I feel that his artwork shows that an artist doesn't always have to be flashy or the normal conformity of pretty but it can be minimalistic and still be captivating and intriguing.


-Lucretia Long

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