Arnold Mesches at Dorsch
Brook Dorsch was a pioneer when he opened a gallery in an abandoned lamp factory in a run-down, industrial Miami neighborhood in 2000. But then Art Basel Miami Beach came to town in 2002, bringing an influx of international art, glamour, buzz and buyers. Dorsch now finds himself at the center of what has become the thriving Wynwood arts district, an area north of downtown Miami. Looking crisp, well lighted and urban, the Dorsch space was recently filled with more than 40 paintings and drawings by Arnold Mesches. Titled “Coming Attractions,” this body of work presents a Grand Guignol of dark, manic imagery–nightmarish, post-apocalyptic visions to which Mesches is fully committed, and which he paints with a ferocious energy. Many younger artists project ambiguity, bewilderment or a nothing-left-to-lose irreverence in response to the present state of the world. In contrast, Mesches (who was born in 1923) is loyal to an ideal of art that is actively engaged with social and political issues.
The largest of these acrylic-on-canvas paintings, at 60 by 110 inches, is Coming Attractions 2 (2005). It features quickly and vigorously brushed evocations of an audience in a dark theater space with more than a dozen brilliant chandeliers hanging above. Hovering in the middle ground, as if projected on a movie screen, is a large disembodied head, gas-masked but somehow clownish; in in contrast to its setting, it is painted in a bold, cartoonish style. The effect is of a puzzling, surrealist event, sinister and comical.
In Coming Attractions 5 (2005) we are shown the interior of an ornate, old-world opera house and its paneled and gilded ceiling. A single chandelier dominates the upper center of the painting. Mesches applied the pigment that suggests the yellow and white explosion of light as thickly and recklessly as Soutine. That this image portrays the aftermath of some military or environmental calamity is indicated by the shabby clothes hanging to dry on clotheslines rigged up above the splendid theater’s orchestra-level seats, presumably by the catastrophe’s survivors.
Mesches seems enamored of paint itself: he piles it on in knots and clumps, slashes and swirls, achieving some thrilling passages. But he is uneven, depending on energy and spontaneity that he sometimes loses control of, in pictures that demand credible depictions of figures, architecture and spatial relationships. As a whole, though, his exhibitions was an impressive outpouring of love and anger.