For the past 60 years, Arnold Mesches has created socially critical paintings that are often imbued with a chilly frisson of anxiety that wracks the spine. His provocative works have referenced everything from the corrosive environment of Cold War politics, Nancy Reagan dabbling in witchcraft at the White House, political sex scandals, defrocked conservative ministers, and America’s quagmire in unpopular wars. In fact, Mesches, who has been likened to a contemporary Jewish Goya, was the subject of an FBI witch hunt during the early stages of his career. From 1945 to 1972, the agency amassed a 760-page file on the painter by gathering information from his friends, neighbors, students, and colleagues. During that time, many of his paintings included images of Joseph McCarthy and the noxious nature of that turbulent era. To commemorate his 90th birthday, Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design is presenting “Arnold Mesches: A Life’s Work,” a major retrospective featuring upward of 85 works on view at the Freedom Tower (600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami), marking his 136th solo show. It’s the most comprehensive exhibit of the Bronx-born painter’s work to date and includes a 1945 canvas, the first he exhibited publicly, as well as other canvases spanning his oeuvre. The sprawling show was curated by Kim Levin — an art critic, curator, writer, and former contributor to New Times’ sister paper the Village Voice. For lovers of powerful artworks depicting the turmoil of recent American history, this show is a must-see.
Feb. 19-May 4, 2013