Clifton Childree: Orchestrated Gestures

November 27, 2010 - January 29, 2011

Reception: November 27, 2010

Childree’s sculptural installations convey narratives of unfinished or lost musical pieces by Scott Joplin, Richard Wagner and Alexander Scriabin.

Selected Works

Clifton Childree: Orchestrated Gestures

Clifton Childree’s sculptural installations convey narratives of unfinished or lost musical pieces by Scott Joplin, Richard Wagner and Alexander Scriabin. A blend of fact and extrapolation, Childree’ stories take the form of old arcade games, each housing a preview game trailer enticing someone to play. The games’ physical structures re-enact the stories they have endlessly repeated, so much that the story haunts the inanimate thing.

Gone-Aria-Rag re-enacts the untimely end of ragtime composer Scott Joplin, whose body was destroyed by syphillis. The film in this piece shows Childree performing as Joplin, playing piano in a bordello. The arcade built around the film comes across as a run down version of a strength-and-hammer game. A disembodied penis appears in the film, encouraging players to hit the cushion on the floor in imitation the brute cure for syphilis in Joplin’s time. The machine grunts and buzzes, and musical notes burst out. “Harder!” the trailer demands. The game tries again, hitting harder until the penis is erect. A winner! We then see Joplin locked in an asylum. The late stages of syphilis affect the nervous system, rendering the subject insane. Childree shows Joplin playing the piano again, but now his hands are destroyed and he is blind. He falls to the floor, as does the the game itself.

tells Childree’s story of mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, the patron of Richard Wagner whose piece plays in the background. King Ludwig built castles and spent extravagantly on the arts, and could not be bothered with matters of state. His attitude did not endear him to other powerful people in Bavaria. Childree is skeptical of the official account that King Ludwig fell into a lake, since Ludwig drowned with his doctor in waist deep water the night after he was kicked out of the castle. In the game’s trailer, Childree portrays King Ludwig in all his effeminate glory, dancing about his room, until he is shot and then deposited in the lake. The arcade, fashioned after an organ, is sinking into the lake, smashed by a replica of the King’s memorial.

Mysterium pivots on the personality and death of Alexander Scriabin. He spent his life composing an epic piece of music that he never finished. Scriabin was a brilliant composer, but he was a hypochondriac. He died of sepsis after a small boil, which he picked, became infected. His incomplete masterpiece plays here, but in snippets, as if the musical piece is dissolving. The trailer, too, gives glimpses of Scriabin, but the picture is incomplete, disjointed, playing the game over and over again in slight variations.



September 30, 2020

Visit by Appointment

Due to COVID-19, we are open by appointment. The gallery will follow social distancing protocol and allow only a certain number of visitors per appointment.