Sunday, June 15, 2014

Arnold Mesches-Eternal Return

Life On Mars

Mesches is a stud of a painter. 90 years young, he exudes a macho strut. This confluence of wisdom and pluck is reflected in the muscular, confrontational strata of his painterly architecture.
His no-nonsense scenery, influenced by Soviet Social Realism, derives from a colorful life on the left coast. Born to an orthodox Jewish family in the Bronx, he became a left-wing Zionist interested in Marxism. I’d assume he was sympathetic to the American Communist Party, (he was a friend of Paul Robeson) and the enlightened tradition of the Hollywood Comintern in the 30s and 40’s before Stalin’s crimes and McCarthy’s paranoia took its toll on the movement.
In the tradition of socialist atheism, Mesches embraces a secular perspective. His paintings do not indulge in speculative metaphysics. They are festooned with feisty decorations that may not soothe the soul, but are soulful. 

Detail Coming Attractions 5

Detail, Coming Attractions 6

In Coming Attractions 5, clothes hanging from a line rudely interrupt the interior of a cathedral-like space, playfully nudging our frame of reference, while perhaps belittling organized orthodoxy.     

 Coming Attractions 5

The urban collages contain a reflective presence. Eternal Return 3 features a foreboding skull, conjuring up medical imagery, while foreshadowing a sense of doom. Possibly an elder’s reference to the impending urgency of mortal decay. 

Detail, Eternal Return 3

Eternal Return 3

There is a rough elegance to Mesches’s collages. They may not be technical tour-de-force’s, but what they might resist in symbiosis with the viewer, they more than make up for in compellingly authentic visual narratives. These rambunctiously riotous compilations of city sprawl contain haunting imagery that evokes an apocalyptic notion worthy of that gloriously noir LA tradition.   


Mesches’s art is laden with character metaphor. This cogent ability to infuse compositions with symbolic versions of person and personality lend a kind of veiled intimacy to his representational prowess. But you don’t really get to know the artist, so much as respect him. Cryptic revelations imbued with fire conjure up Charles Burchfield’s burning houses without the spiritual ascendancy. This conflagration consumes an artist consumed by a desire to paint succinctly forceful gestures. 

Detail, Shock and Awe 23

Shock and Awe 23

His expansive interiors coalesce as references to dream sensations that offer up a splendid dichotomy of loose and tight/dark and light. In Coming Attractions 6, skeletal archetypes span a voluminous void, inhabited by iconographic constellations of dinosaur fossils floating about an allegorical realm. 

Coming Attractions 6

The crowd scene paintings foment a lustrous visage of pigment, spread about with less of a regard for pictorial realism, and thus end up becoming more pure compilations of chromatic intensity.
They merge towards a filmic synthesis; a long shot zoomed in, impelling an almost abstract result. These works epitomize the artist’s figurative gestures. Casually staged and painted, they belie a highly charged picture plane chock full of incipient drama. Like blossoms bursting they release an outpouring of life energy that affirms this painters humanist mission.
Mesches is an old school, lunch pail artist whose workman-like oeuvre has hammered out a well-deserved niche. Probably the last of his generation, it is amazing to see such a prolific artist still painting his ass off.

Eternal Return 10

Eternal Return 4

Detail, Eternal Return (?)

A good synopsis of Mesches’s career: