Clifton Childree and Arnold Mesches at Dorsch Gallery

Rarely do we attend events that give us chills. And it wasn't just the frequent, icy wind bursts on Saturday evening. The Dorsch Gallery's Clifton Childree and Arnold Mesches exhibit is an outstanding example of Miami's contemporary art prowess sprawled forth in grandiose, multimedia installations and masterfully executed, traditional paintings.

The juxtaposition between Childree's haunting, orchestral sanitarium and Mesches pulsating, deeply saturated pictures of performers and works by the masters was among the most engaging presentations a gallery could offer for this upcoming week of visual frenzy.

The Dorsch Gallery, Miami
Arnold Mesches 'Paint' at Dorsch Gallery

first room is laden with miniature and full-scale paintings in Paint

from 87-year-old Arnold Mesches, who will be showing work at the Frost

Museum throughout Art Basel Miami Beach. With lush, controlled

strokes, Mesches illuminates the painter's studio using works from

Rembrandt, Goya, and El Greco as larger-than-life backdrops. The

mahogany-tinged backgrounds add a sense of reverence and

wisdom to the historic works, essentially reduced to postcards on a

table with the artists' brushes, paint cans and other tools.

The second

room displays "Weather Patterns," a series of large-scale works, which

pit miniscule circus performers, a chariot driver, and a waiter

(amongst others) against the sublime, menacing conditions of

thunderstorms, tornadoes and volcanoes. Nature's fury somehow gently

compliments the little figures, as they continue their activity unaware

of the impending danger of their surroundings.

Throughout the gallery, a truly

The Dorsch Gallery, Miami
Clifton Childree 'Orchestrated Gestures' at Dorsch

chilling, cacophonous melee of organ music is heard emanating from

Clifton Childree's "Orchestrated Gestures." Childree, who delights in

transforming the circus into veritable subconscious nightmares, raises

the circus tent and moves into the realms of American and European

history. Childree constructs three large-scale installations (placing

himself as the star of his films embedded within the structures), which

chronicle the sad existences of ragtime composer Scott Joplin (who died

of syphilis in a New York insane asylum), mad King Ludwig of Bavaria

(buried at the bottom of a lake by revolutionaries), and hypochondriac

Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (once proclaiming himself 'God' and

dying of a self-inflicted infection from a shaving wound). Using bedroom

chests and boudoirs as the house of an arcade game, Childree produces

a haunting, yet poignant picture of three mad geniuses whose lives were

defined by folly and social marginalization.

This exhibition holds on tight and doesn't let go,

even as you walk out of the black-washed space with its neon-green

awning. See for yourself and experience the mad genius that directors

Brook and Tyler-Emerson Dorsch have produced. Both exhibits will show until January 29, 2011.

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Shana Mason