Clifton Childree Nature Winds at Galerie Ernst Hilger
A collection of early 20th-century advertisement signs by the perfume company in Key West, Florida.
On View: June 30th – August 25th, 2022
An analog artist in the digital era, Clifton Childree adores the herky-jerky motion of black and white silent film, its hokey lighting, and the hiss and crackle of phonograph records. All these rich textures are anathema in the present moment that worships hyper-smooth seamless cinematography and state of the art CGI illusions. Childree’s affection for simple hydraulics and basic mechanics comes from a deep love affair for the turn-of-the-century arcade, and the broad laughs of vaudeville entertainment. It’s the hand-cranked and slapstick that gets Childree going.
To introduce himself, Childree has said, “I was born in LA (Lower Alabama) under the sign ‘Red Light District’ during low tide in the gene pool. You may have seen me playing the washtub bass with Boise Bob and His Backyard Band. I married a dancing monkey, adopted two filthy street dogs and a mean old black cat. If you stand close enough to me, you can hear the ocean.”
Clifton Childree (Born 1971 Birmingham, Alabama, lives and works Miami, FL) is a filmmaker, performance artist, installation artist and painter. He performs as a range of characters – from a failed Henry Flagler, or a drunken candidate for county commissioner – low, profane and crude characters with hilarious and disturbing body language, loosely connected to his study of the Japanese dance style called Butoh, in addition to the body language of silent film performers like Lon Chaney, Sr., Harry Langdon, Stan Laurel. He sometimes projected his films behind him while he was performing, and his multi-media installations often acted as frames or cases for films he made. His filmic style references Jan Svankmajer, Ladislas Starewicz, the Brothers Quay, and Guy Maddin. Like them, Childree refused inhibitions, opting instead for voracious explorations of all manner of eccentricities, in the process making films that could be in turn sublime and then utterly crude. Melodrama, scatological slapstick, stop motion animation and other early film effects are all in his toolbox.
Later the installations evoked movement of objects without the use of film. Early paintings were backdrops for these multi-media installations, as in Gesamkunstwerk in Orchestrated Gestures at Emerson Dorsch Gallery in 2010. Paintings like Jubilee Bell (2018) also suggested movement, personal history, and his affinity for the visual culture of the American South. He has won numerous awards, most recently an Ellie Award from Oolite Arts in 2019. Other awards include Legal Art’s Native Seeds Emerging Artist Grant, Miami, FL; the Hilger Award for an exhibition at Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Miami New Times’s Best Local Artist; the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship; the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Visual and Media Artists (twice).
His films won numerous awards from festivals around the country, among them Best Experimental Film, indie Memphis, Memphis, TN; Best Experimental Short, Ole Muddy Film Festival, Trempealeau, WI; Best Feature, voted by Grand Jury, Downstream Film Festival, Decatur, GA; and Best Feature, Microcinefest, Baltimore, MD. He has collaborated with a number of visual artists to achieve their vision in film, including Pablo Cano and Naomi Fisher. His film made in collaboration with Pablo Cano, a commission for Young At Arts Museum in Davie, FL won the First Place Award, ASID Design Excellence Awards and Best Picks for the Field’s Finest, American Alliance of Museums.
In the visual arts, Childree’s solo shows have been comprised mostly of multi-media installations. Pivotal shows for him have been his installation “Dream Cum True” at Locust Projects in 2007, for which he transformed the entire interior of the alternative space into an immersive ghost-town arcade, where each game and ride encased films by Childree custom-made for the occasion. Childree directed and acted in the films, and he also gave a live performance for that exhibition. His show “Fuck That Chicken from Popeyes” for the Wien Museum Project Space in 2011 was accompanied by a well-illustrated catalog of the same name, featuring essays by Synne Genzmer and Gerald Matt. His installation at MANA Contemporary, presented by Galerie Ernst Hilger, marked a transition in his methodology; this was a sculptural installation which suggested movement without the inclusion of a film element.
Childree has shown widely with South Florida’s institutions, including Perez Art Museum Miami, Locust Projects, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Oolite Arts, Bas Fisher Invitational, Tigertail Productions, and NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale, FL. His installation Miamah Swamp Adventure, for PULSE NY was pictured on the cover of the Arts section of The New York Times. His show Niaga-Rag Follies at Hallwalls in upstate New York was a similarly immersive installation. In addition to solo exhibitions at Hilger Brot Kunsthalle, Kunsthalle Wien and a project room at Wien Museum, he has shown with artists such as Erwin Wurm and Roni Horn in group exhibitions at Hilger Brot Kunsthalle and Kunsthalle Wien in Austria. Consisting of three discrete multi-media installations, his show Orchestrated Gestures at Emerson Dorsch Gallery in 2010 was reviewed by Paula Harper for Art in America.