Clifton Childree, born in 1971 in Birmingham, Alabama, USA is an artist working in installations, films and performances. Describing himself as an “analogue artist”, Childree declares to be a melancholic who prefers old-fashioned objects and mechanics to slick modern technology. This is accentuated in his nostalgic aesthetics; his art reminds the viewer of black and white movies, dim lighting and the scratchy tendency of records, recalling early 20th century fairgrounds, arcades and vaudevilles.
Growing up in a house filled with antiques, Childree notes that from a very early age, he appreciated objects that had a story, a life prior to now. His mother encouraged him to construct his own toys rather than buying him some, which sparked his interest in bricolage. Collecting found objects, guessing their story and repurposing them for his own purposes is a mindset he adopted then. In “Nature Winds – a collection of early 20th-century advertisement signs by the perfume company in Key West, Florida” Childree incorporates the tradition of collecting broken, forgotten images, and interprets them in a new way. With that, Childree falls in the tradition of post-war art movements of the twentieth century, such as the French art movement New Realism. Having started in the 1960s, the movement was guided by the works of Marcel Duchamp as well as other artists of Dadaism. Like Childree, Nouveau Realists liked to blur the lines between painting and object art.
Playing with trivial objects, they posed the question of a new definition of “art” and “artwork”. The New Realists created “reliefs” from meals, waste and damaged pieces of furniture. They also used underwear, worn and barely legible posters that they had torn off the street. The aim of the New Realists was to integrate the banal reality of everyday life into art using previously unused techniques and materials. Like Childree, their aim was to secure a past everyday life and reinterpret it in a new way to create an aesthetically pleasing work.
The palette of the exhibited work in the exhibition “Nature Winds – a collection of early 20th-century advertisement signs by the perfume company in Key West, Florida,” recalls 20th-century advertisement billboards, though now rather than conveying language or pictures of wares, the colours depict a barely legible tangle of plants, in various stages of their life cycle. Childree’s paint contains marble dust to achieve a matte chalky texture, one that mimics the look of old billboards. He painted plants growing in his backyard studio – such as palm trees and Florida grasses. In bringing together the old palette of billboards with the colours of his garden, Childree emphasises the influence that location has on the respective impact of advertisement.
Clifton Childree has exhibited at Perez Art Museum Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Oolite Arts, Bas Fisher International (BFI), Pulse Art Fair, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Frost Museum of Art at Florida International University, Miami International Film Festival, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Florida Dance Festival, Locust Projects, Hallwalls, NY. Galerie Ernst Hilger first worked with Childree in a cooperation at Hilger Brot Kunsthalle, followed by a solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien in 2011. Childree has also participated in over 40 domestic and international film festivals. He received an Ellie Award from Oolite Arts, The Hilger Award for Locust Projects, the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship, the Legal Art Native Seeds Grant, and the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship. His large-scale installations have been commissioned by the Pulse Art Fair NYC, Locust Projects Miami, the Miami Performing Arts Center/Miami Light Project, Hilger Contemporary Gallery, and Kunsthalle Wien. Childree collaborated with Pablo Cano on nine animated films intended for permanent display at the Young at Arts Museum in Davie, FL. He is also a featured artist in the book Miami Contemporary Artists. His work has been published and discussed in The New York Times, Art in America, Artforum.com, Huffington Post, Miami New Times, and The Biscayne Times.