Los Angeles

Arnold Mesches

Santa Monica Gallery

This exhibition includes drawings, oils and gouaches. The 29 works were painted during the past four years. The canvases, some of them tremendous in size, are filled with masses of black and white with occasional bright colors, and immediately communicate violent moods. A deep preoccupation with the struggle between life and death lends a dark brooding quality to these explosive and foreboding canvases. Mesches, a young California painter and teacher, is a highly skilled craftsman who employs tortured distortion within the limits of a restrained palette to implement the ever-present mood of disaster. Yet, his facility for juxtaposition between figure and background creates a highly satisfying abstract surface as well. His subjects are almost always people, whom he uses often, but only as a point of departure.

The works fall loosely into definable groups. “Masquerade,” the earliest period, contains colorful collages, such as “Guests Arriving” or “Humpty Dumpty.” These are multiple images of macabre distortion. The second group, “The Orgy,” develops a concentrated movement of sated bodies floating in areas of flat color. “Double Image,” perhaps the most exciting in the show, depicts two bodies joined yet seeming to move rhythmically apart on a field of red between and around the lovers. Mesches’ most recent figure paintings, following a European sojourn, are more subdued and somber in quality. He restricts his colors to whites and grays against intense darks, which spotlight dramatic movement and draw focus from one subtle area to another for a hypnotic total effect.

––Michael Brawne

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