March 28, 2009

Arnold Mesches at SMMoA

Arnold Mesches' Coming Attractions 1, 2006
Like the artists in California, Seen at the Long Beach Museum of Art, Arnold Mesches supplemented his income by teaching and working in Southern California's movie industry. And like those artists, their canvases, mural walls, and sketch pads were an appropriate place as any for a declarative sentence. For many New Deal artists, politics and art were in support of the working class and gave voice to the oppressed. By the mid-forties, Mesches activities garnered him FBI surveillance, which recruited students, lovers, and neighbors to monitor and report on his activities. At one point his studio was broken into, and work he was making on the Rosenbergs was stolen.

In Coming Attractions, Mesches large canvases are juicy with paint, showing us the baroque interiors of what appear to be old movie palaces and opera houses. To these fantastic architectural spaces Mesches adds some dissonance to echo off the walls. Laundry dries across one space; in another, black and white images of workers inlay the paneled walls.

There's pessimism in Mesches work, but for an artist in his mid-eighties, it is articulated loud and clear, and without a hint of despair. Considering the ebb and flow of rights and freedoms under successive administrations, and Mesches persecution under the communist scare of the fifties, his work has something to tell us about the terrorist scare and hubris of today.

Arnold Mesches' Coming Attractions 6, 2006
Arnold Meches' Coming Attractions is on view at the Santa Monica Museum of Art through April 18, 2009

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