Untitled (Bar Crystals Nebula), 1990s
ink and tape on paper
2.75 x 6 in. (6.98 x 15.24 cm)
Untitled (Chocolate Limen), 1990s
ink and tape on paper
11.25 x 8 in. (28.57 x 20.32 cm)
Staminate Conquest, c. 2004
ballpoint pen and tape on paper
8 x 4 in. (20.32 x 10.16 cm)
Untitled (DAA Antares), 1990s
ink on paper
5.50 x 3.50 in. (13.97 x 8.89 cm)
Born 1954, South Carolina.
Melvin “Milky” Way is an Outsider Artist whose work occupies the uncharted border between art and science. Born in South Carolina in 1954, Way came to New York City in the 1970s to attend a technical school, earning a certificate to operate a power press. He played bass in local bands, and recorded a solo album with Encounter Records, which folded before the album could be released. Soon after, Way was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and following a string of unsuccessful relationships, became homeless.
By 1989 Way was residing in the shelter run by Hospital Audiences International, a nonprofit organization offering art workshops to people with disabilities.
Lower East Side artist Andrew Castrucci, a volunteer workshop leader at the time, encouraged Way to make art, and acted as his advocate during subsequent years. Way soon began to produce small, exquisite ballpoint-pen and ink drawings on found paper. Despite the very straightforward of his chosen genre, Way’s drawings are strikingly complex. Rich hybrids of scrawled text, mathematical equations, astronomical shorthand, chemical formulae, and alchemical punning, each work is marked by the artist’s signature, thrillingly dense sensibility. Way engages both the eye and the mind, drawing viewers into exquisite mysteries that may never be solved.
- Jenifer P. Borum
Selected Solo Exhibition
2018, The Cocaine Files Dossier, 1989-2017, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2012, Melvin Way, HAI, New York
Selected Group Exhibitions
2019, The Doors of Perception, Curated by Javier Téllez in collaboration with the Outsider Art Fair, Frieze New York
2019, Drawn Together Again, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York
2018, False Flag: The Space Between Paranoia and Reason, Franklin Street Works, Stamford
2016, Once Something Has Lived It Can Never Really Die, Americain Folk Art Museum, New York
2013, Alternative Guide To The Universe, Hayward Gallery, London
2013, Farfetched: Mad Science, Fringe Architecture and Visionary Engineering, Gregg Museum of Art and Design, Raleigh (North Carolina)
2012, Towards a Warm Math, On Stellar Rays, New York
2009, Approaching Abstraction, American Folk Art Museum, New York
2008, Communication Breakdown, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2004, Cryptic Communications, Transformer, Washington, D.C.
1991, Art's Mouth, curated by Connie Butler, Artists Space, New York
American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore
Antoine de Galbert Collection, Paris
Collection abcd, Montreuil
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Transformer, Washington, D.C.
Treger Saint Silvestre, Porto
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Gomez, Edward M.,"Melvin Way Holds the Keys to the Universe," Hyperallergic, March 3, 2018
Rugoff, Ralph, ed., The Alternative Guide to the Universe, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Publishing, London, 2013.
Sabatino, Marie, "Melvin Way: The Man, the Pen, and the Moon," fluence, March/April 2011.
Karlins, N.F., "Melvin 'Milky' Way," Raw Vision, No. 34, Spring 2001.
Weiss, Allen S., "Algebra vs. Drunkenness," Cabinet Magazine, No. 8, Fall 2002.