Sunday, May 15, 2011

Arnold Mesches @ Mindy Solomon Gallery

Mindy Solomon and Arnold Mesches at MSG on opening night.

Arnold Mesches  calls himself a "Social Painter".

"My paintings are about the frailty of existence, the social tensions of our day, erosion, silence, madness, values, distance, comedy, ridicule and anger."

You can read the short version of his biography here [Link]. It leaves out the day when he was a schoolboy and on a field trip to a museum, he saw a Rembrandt and had a revelation. He did not get to art directly. He became a graphic artist first, and was on his first job in Hollywood, when the workers went on strike. Mesches went home and painted. He also learned about art history, a topic in which he is fluent, visually and verbally.

[ During the Q&A session after his talk, a woman asked if he'd ever suffered from "Painter's Block". He remarked that he had, and how it lasted a couple of years, during which he wrote two books, acted in movies, and much more. A few of us in the audience felt a little inadequate, wishing we had just one fallow period like that.]

Arnold Mesches, "Ligh Source", 2009

In "Light Source", from the series "Paint", Mesches shows us the painting that started it all on that fateful field trip. He says it had its own inner light and one can sense that in this expressionist version. Note that he has brought his own painting table, painting it just below the Rembrandt, at its base. It looks like an altar setting with the tools of the Sacrament below a religious icon in a church. Looking at the brushes, etc., on the table, it is obvious that the light on them is not coming from the painting. It is coming from the painter's side, perhaps the painter himself. 

Arnold Mesches, "Landscape Painting", 2009

About the series Paint, Mesches has said: " The new paintings are about all the things we’re talking about: the death of publishing, art is dead, painting is dead. I’m referencing great paintings that have influenced me over the years, fronting them with a painting of my own palette table or my brushes. And the fact that all the things we’re talking about: the death of publishing art is dead, painting is dead—I guess I’m saying that art ain’t dead.".  In "Landscape Painting" Mesches brings us El Greco's "View of Toledo". [Link]. Here, the painter has once again painted his table into the frame, but it does not sit like an altar at the base of El Greco's Landscape. The brushes and paints are in themselves a landscape, that of the painter. Note how the table recedes literally into the El Greco painting, almost like a metaphorical bridge to it.

Long Live Paint.

Arnold Mesches, "Isometric Perspective",

 Mantegna's famous "Lamentation over Dead Christ" is perhaps best known for its perspective, a type wherein objects closer to the point-of-view are smaller than those further away. It is called isometric perspective. Here Mesches has rendered his own version, but in a subfreame composed of a semicircle of brushes, looking like a Crown of Thorns viewed from overhead.


Arnold Mesches, "Weather Pattern No 7"

About his series "Weather Patterns," Mesches says that it "...brings to bear the precariousness of the fledgling Obama administration's attempted resurrection from the Bush years.  I know they are about precariousness but, while they may have something to do with the present political arena, I know that they have much to do with the overall frightening picture, climate change, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the constant, daily struggle of chance."
   We see very stormy weather in which acrobats engage in nearly impossible, precarious stunts, tempting fate as human lightning rods during an electrical storm. They speak to the uncertainty of the times, and the fix(es) we're in after years of living dangerously.

Arnold Mesches, "Weather Pattern 10"

  In "Weather Pattern 10", we see an acrobat reaching for (or letting go of) the trapeze, and it's that moment of doubt whe we do not know if he will make it.

After talking about this series, a gallery goer asked Mesches how could he keep going on when addressing such dark, gloomy subjects, and he remarked that the very act of painting was an affirmation of hope.

Mindy Solomon Gallery Bathroom, AKA "The Sunset Room". Work by Arnold Mesches.

When you go to see this show, remember to go into the bathroom, where there are three extraordinary sunsets by Arnold Mesches, and an essay that is a must-read. Note the stormy or cloudy skies over these sunsets painted by Mesches while wintering in the island of Culebra, just off Puerto Rico. 

Arnold Mesches @ Mindy Solomon Gallery - Mindy Solomon Gallery, 124 2nd Ave NE., St Petersburg. Open Wednesday -Saturday, 11 AM - 5 PM.

A special note of thanks to Mindy Solomon for bringing Arnold Mesches to us, and to Arnold for his insights into life and painting.

--- Luis

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