Scraps of found paper covered in writing, numbers, mathematical and chemical formulae, geometric shapes, musical scores, and sticky tape... The density of script layered on Melvin Way's graceful works gives them a rare magnetism. They reflect his obsession with space and time, while his equations seem intended to calculate the channels between the two; they act as a path of enfranchisement, abolishing the place assigned to us by time and space, thereby opening new vistas to the artist, who sometimes signs his works Melvin "Milky" Way.
Melvin was born in South Carolina and brought up by relatives in Brooklyn. He was fascinated by science at high school, where he also played bass and sang in a group. He was a student at the Technical Career Institute when he developed symptoms of mental illness that worsened over time. His girlfriend at the time was also struggling with drug addiction. He decided to become a musician before eventually finding himself homeless on Wards Island. The artist Andrew Castrucci came across Melvin's drawings in a homeless drop-in centre in the mid-1980s and set up an exhibition to showcase them. Melvin used a ball-point pen to draw on scraps of paper, scribbling countless signs, forms, and mysterious formulae, some gleaned from books, their secret known to no-one but him. He spends weeks, even months, working on his drawings, keeping them in his pocket or between the leaves of a book, and returning to work on them years later.
Melvin Way's art has been admired by eminent critics such as Jerry Saltz, who described him as "a mystic visionary genius". His works are part of the world's largest collections of art brut and he has recently been integrated into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
"scrivere designando" when language seeks its other, contemporary art center, genève, switzerland, from january 29th to may 3st, 2020.
photo | brut : collection bruno decharme et compagnie, les rencontres d’arles in collaboration with abcd and the american folk art museum (new york), les rencontres de la photographie, mécanique générale, from july 1st to september 22nd, 2019.
do the write thing 2: read between the lines, from april 26th to june 2nd, 2018.
drawing now art fair, le carreau du temple, from march 22th to 25th 2018.
sessions #6 : systems, paris-beijing gallery, from july 13th to 29th, 2017.
the museum of everything, from june 10th, 2017, to april 2nd, 2018, mona (museum of old and new art), berriedale, australia.
brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies from october 29th to january 16th, 2017, musées de belfort, belfort. curator christian berst; associated curator brut pop.
cracking the code, appleton square, from october 7th to november 3rd 2016, lisboa, portugal.
art brut: a history of individual mythologies, from june 18th to february 26th, 2017 curator: christian berst, oliva creative factory, sao joao da madeira.
melvin way, a vortex symphony, from may 26 th to july 16th, 2016 christian berst art brut gallery, paris.
créer c'est résister, exposition collective à la bibliothèque de lyon, du 8 octobre 2015 au 9 janvier 2016, sous le commissariat de thaïva ouaki.
pretense, from september 12th to october 10th 2016, collective exhibition at christian berst art brut gallery, paris.
melvin way, gaga city, from june 7th to july 19th 2015, christian berst art brut gallery, new york.
art brut live, from march 27th to august 17th 2015 dox center for contemporary art, prague.
le mur, oeuvres de la collection antoine de galbert, from june 14th to september 21st 2014, la maison rouge, paris.
alternative guide to the universe, from june 11st to august 26th 2013, collective exhibition, hayward gallery, london.
farfetched: mad science, fringe architecture and visionary engineering", from january 17th to april 26th 2013, gregg museum of art and design, raleigh (north carolina).
towards a warm matstellar rays, 2012, New York.
salon du dessin contemporain - drawing now 2012, carrousel du louvre, paris.
rentrée hors les normes 2011, découvertes & nouvelles acquisitions, from september 10th to 28th, christian berst art brut gallery, paris.
approaching abstraction, american folk Art museum, new york, from october 6th to september 12th, 2010.
cryptic communications, transformer, 2004, washington, D.C.
art's mouth, from may 16th to June 29th, 1991, curated by connie butler, artists space, new york.
photo|brut, collection bruno decharme & compagnie, paris, flammarion ed., abcd and the american folk art museum, 2019.
art brut : la pulsion creativa al desnudo, graciela garcia, sans soleil ed., vitoria-gasteiz, 2018.
l'art brut, under the direction of martine lusardy, citadelles & mazenod, paris, 2018.
exhibition catalogue, do the write thing 2: read between the lines, christian berst art brut ed., 2018.
revue multitudes, n°69, winter, 2017.
exhibition catalogue brut now: l'art brut au temps des technologies, ed. les presses du réel, musées de belfort, belfort, 2017.
exhibition's catalogue, « melvin way, a vortex symphony », christian berst art brut, paris, 2016.
exhibition catalogue, art brut live, DOX centre for contemporary art, prague, 2015.
exhibition catalogue, melvin way, gaga city, christian berst art brut, new york, 2015.
art brut, collection abcd/bruno decharme, paris, flammarion, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, art brut collection abcd/bruno decharme, paris, la maison rouge, 2014.
exhibition catalogue, le mur, oeuvres de la collection antoine de galbert, paris, la maison rouge, 2014.
exhibition, hayward publishing, the alternative guide to the universe, ralph rugolf, london, 2013.
exhibition catalogue, everything # 4 , london, the museum of everything, 2011.
exhibition catalogue, rentrée hors-les-normes, découvertes & nouvelles acquisitions 2011, paris, galerie christian berst art brut, 2011.
mari sabatino, melvin way, the man, the pen and the moon, in fluence mars-avril 2011.
charley n°5, dijon, les presses du réel, 2007.
lyle rexer, how to look at outsider art, new york, harry n. abrams publishers, 2005.
eleanor munro, where postmodern art and schizophrenia intersect, new york times, 31 mars, 2002.
allen s. weiss, algebra is drunkenness, new york, cabinet magazine, fall 2002.
n. f. karlins, “melvin “milky” way”, raw vision n°34, spring 2001.
- collection de l'Art brut, Lausanne (Switzerland)
- abcd collection, montreuil (France)
- Antoine de Galbert collection, Paris (France)
- Treger Saint Silvestre collection, Porto (Portugal)
- Smithsonian Museum Of American Art, Washington (United States)
- AVAM, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore (United States)
- The Museum of Modern Art, New-york (United States)
- Hervé Lancelin Pinacothèque, Luxembourg (Luxembourg)
- Amr Shaker collection, Genève (Switzerland)
selective press review
- christian berst, la nature irréductible de l'art brut authors tom laurent in art absolument, september / october 2018.
- Melvin Way, A vortex symphony authors Félix Gatier in art press online, July 13, 2016.
- artistes new yorkais à Paris authors la rédaction in Que faire à Paris, June 23 2016.
- Expo Dessin Contemporain: Melvin WAY « a vortex symphony » authors Nituadmin Art in http://www.artsculture.fr/, June 17 2016.
- Novas obras de Arte Bruta em mostra nacional sobre "mitologias individuais" de outsiders authors Lusa in RTP O Essencial, June 13, 2016.
- Melvin Way - A Vortex Symphony authors Bénédicte Philippe in Télérama Sortir, June 9, 2016.
- Notre rencontre avec Christian Berst authors Lucien in lesjeudisarty.squarespace.com, May 26, 2016.
- Annette Messager - galerie christian berst authors Philippe Dagen in Le Monde, September 27, 2015.
- Artist Melvin Way's Journey from Homelessness to Art World Acclaim authors Alanna Martinez in New York Observer, July 17, 2015.
- Studying the Masterpieces of Visionary Melvin Way authors Jerry Saltz in Vulture, July 17, 2015.
- Melvin Way’s fantasy formulas meet Andrew Castrucci’s diagrams of dysfunction authors Edward Gómez in edwardmgomez.com, June 8, 2015.
- retour du carrousel authors in animula vagula, April 8 2012.
- Au Salon du dessin, des œuvres d'art empilées comme autant de liasses sur les murs authors Philippe Dagen in Le Monde, March 30 2012.
- galeries une rentrée authors lunettes rouges in amateur d'art par lunettes rouges, September 22 2011.