Visual Arts Program

Friday, September 13, 2013 — Friday, October 25, 2013

Clifton Childree

Niaga-Rag Follies

Clifton Childree - <em>Niaga-Rag Follies</em>
Clifton Childree - <em>Niaga-Rag Follies</em>
Clifton Childree - <em>Niaga-Rag Follies</em>
Clifton Childree - <em>Niaga-Rag Follies</em>

A Hallwalls Artist In Residence project (HARP), made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Opening Reception: Friday, September 13, 8-11 p.m.
Artist's Talk at 8:00 p.m.
Exhibition continues through October 25.

Miami artist Clifton Childree has described himself as an analog artist in a digital age and for his residency project at Hallwalls, Childree has drawn upon specific tangents of Buffalo's regional landscape and cultural history for a new, site-specific installation.

Niaga-Rag Follies draws upon two distinct regional historical cues and draws them together into a newly imagined hybrid, collapsing actual history, place, and forms with a speculative history of pathos, desire, and dreams. That latter speculative history is, as many know, an actual psychological landscape in a region of the country that has known both historic highs and unthinkable lows. Utilizing large sculptural elements, player pianos, projected 8mm films, and a newly-composed musical score, Childree will fold the vast emotional and geographical history of Niagara Falls with the equally dynamic but distinct forms of piano rolls via the history of Buffalo’s own QRS Music Rolls.

Springboarding from a venue still located in Niagara Falls, NY, Childree will recreate what appears to be a wax museum historical display that removes the conventional subject matter of the Falls and replaces that with an evocative history of QRS Music Rolls, a historical player piano roll company still located in Buffalo, NY. Waterfalls will be replaced by projected piano rolls, set amid a didactic mise en scène that will also include recreated historical photos and newsreels, and will replace the suicidal allure of the Falls with an addictive obsession for karaoke.

Just as he collapses actual and imagined history, Childree hybridizes familiar (or perhaps not so familiar any longer) forms into what is at least a familiar-seeming display. Found and abandoned objects, purchased and reclaimed antiques, and elements purposely weathered by the natural elements all combine into a form that is both entirely new and strangely recognizable. Part historical museum, part boardwalk frivolity, part arcade fun  house, Childree’s work utilizes an old-timey aesthetic as the entry point into a new, emotional space. Are the fevered dreams of old still burning?

The films to be included within the installation were all shot on 8mm, written and performed by the artist. An original pianola score based on the sound of Niagara Falls has been composed for the artist by Bob Berkman, a Buffalo musician with a life-long devotion to the player piano. As Berkman explains, "The piece was composed using very traditional player piano parameters with regard to range, tempo, and density, and perforated on vintage equipment at QRS. Clifton wanted something that evoked the low rumbling of the Falls.  Once I had that, I wanted to add, in a higher range, suggestions of other images that the Falls can bring to mind. Clifton liked this combination when he heard it, calling it 'abstract but very sweet.' "

If it remains difficult to get a fix on the final form of Niaga-Rag Follies, consider Childree’s reply to a Huffington Post interview in 2012, when asked who he is:

“I was born in LA (Lower Alabama) under the sign 'Red Light District' during low tide in the gene pool. You may have seen me playing the washtub bass with Boise Bob and His Backyard Band. I married a dancing monkey, adopted two filthy street dogs and a mean old black cat. If you stand close enough to me, you can hear the ocean.”

Miami resident Clifton Childree is a filmmaker/artist who has shown locally in Miami at the Miami Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Art Center South Florida, BFI, Pulse Art Fair, Florida International University, Miami International Film Festival, Florida Dance Festival, Locust Projects and internationally in Vienna at Brot Kunsthalle and a solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien in addition to over 40 domestic and international film festivals. He received the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship, the Legal Art Native Seeds Grant and the Florida Individual Artist Fellowship. His large scale installations have been commissioned by the Pulse Art Fair NYC, Locust Projects Miami, the Miami Performing Arts Center/Miami Light Project, Hilger Contemporary Gallery and Kunsthalle Wien.  Childree is a featured artist in the book Miami Contemporary Artists and is currently in production on a book for NAME publishing as well as nine animated puppet films for permanent display at the new Young At Art Museum in Ft. Lauderdale.

This Hallwalls Artists in Residence Project (HARP) residency was funded in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.