Dr Jo Melvin

Reader in Fine Art Theory

Chelsea College of Arts


Melvin’s interest in artists’ and institutional archives’ and oral histories has been an ongoing preoccupation, subsequent to her MA in History and Theory of Modern Art at Chelsea in 1993. She began interviewing artists when on Fine Art BA at Middlesex Polytechnic during the 1980s and has been immersed in collaborative dialogues ever since. She is particularly interested in the relationships between the archive, documentation and performativity.

In 2015 Melvin was senior Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute Leeds, where she worked on devising an exhibition of the American Conceptual Artist, Christine Kozlov and received an International Curatorial Award to enable research at MoMA, New York, The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian, Washington, and the Getty LA. These visits included interviews with artists and colleagues of Kozlov conducted by Melvin and Pavel Pys curator of Henry Moore Institute.

The exhibition will present new research and enable the significance of Kozlov’s work to receive proper attention. Kozlov was a central participant in the formation of early conceptual art practices in 1960s New York, and was involved in a network of collaboration and friendships. Her work was based on a systematic participation and withdrawal within these networks until the early 1970s when she decided to stop actively making art. Her work is a barometer of her times, yet she continues to be underexposed.

Melvin is working on the Seth Siegelaub catalogue accompanying the forthcoming exhibition at the Stedlijk, Amsterdam, 2015-16 and preparing the Barry Flanagan catalogue raisonné to be published by Modern Art Press, Yale, 2017.

Research interests

Curation, Restaging Exhibitions, Conceptual Art, Performance Art and Documentation, Contemporary Art Practices, Sculpture, Film, Oral History Theory, Archive Theory, Artists’ Publications, Artistic Legacy and Ethical Responsibilities. 

Research statement

The chaotic network of ideas connecting new art practices arising during the 1960s-70s were facilitated by developing communication systems. Publications became a site for exhibition, the space of the page was a situation for making work. Investigating the specificities of these stories through archives and oral histories suggest multiple readings to question interpretation and give each encounter the potential of a new beginning.

This backdrop informs Melvin’s current research interests to investigate the ways in which these so-called new art practices continue to impact today; in particular, through her exhibition curation, Five Issues of Studio International, Raven Row, London 2015 and Palindromes: Exchanges between Barry Flanagan and John Latham Flat Time House, London 2015. These exhibitions are devised through a combination of archival interlocution, oral histories and artwork. JJ Charlesworth in Art Monthly No. 386 observed:

What is interesting about Melvin’s historical show is how by deferring to the published record of Townsend’s Studio, the uncertain future of certain artistic discourses and trajectories is presented as yet-to-happen.


Gustavo Grandal Montero, Concrete poetry, conceptual art and the 'turn to language' in the 1960s.

James Lander, Storeys/stories of Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron Tower: archival investigations from a contested site.

Selected research outputs