Melchert was born in 1930 in Ohio, and he received degrees from Princeton and the University of California, Berkeley, studying ceramics under Peter Voulkos as his teaching assistant. He taught at SFAI and was a Professor Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley. In 1977, he was hired by the National Endowment for the Arts as Director of the Visual Arts Program. In 1984, Melchert became the Director of the American Academy in Rome.
“The arc of an artist’s career is usually described in such a way that the more mundane parts, such as employment (since most artists today do have other work besides their studio practice) remain magically invisible. In Melchert’s case, these other activities are inextricably interwoven with the objects and ideas he has produced over the past five decades. His commitment to a larger community through leadership and teaching never altered his intense interest in making art.” - Maria Porges
Melchert’s work has been exhibited are the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museums of Contemporary Art in Houston, and Los Angeles; at the Museums of Modern Art in San Francisco, Tokyo, and Kyoto; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany.