Mar 27, 2019 — Sep 15, 2019
Born in the Bronx, Arnold Mesches (1923-2016) grew up in Buffalo, New York, and in 1943 moved to Los Angeles, where he accepted a scholarship to the Art Center School. In 1945, the artist came under FBI scrutiny as a suspected subversive communist for his participation in labor-related protests. The FBI maintained an open file on Mesches until 1972, after which he gained possession of the file’s contents. He then created a provocative series of collages using the material the file contained.
The artist worked in the film industry during the 1940s and 1950s, learning cinematic scale and techniques that he deftly transferred to large-scale paintings. Created over three decades, from the 1980s to 2011, the paintings in this exhibition are drawn from a succession of projects variously titled Anomie, It’s a Circus, Coming Attractions, and Shock and Awe. While his expressive technique evolved over time, Mesches was a consistently powerful critic of human frailty, leading inevitably to environmental abuses and self-destruction. These social realist harangues are not without humor, however, as they appear to preview apocalyptic destruction from the front row of one of Hollywood’s ornate Golden Age theaters.
Featured in more than 145 solo exhibitions, Mesches’s work may be found in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, among other institutions. Mesches taught at New York University, Parsons College, and Rutgers University before accepting a position at the University of Florida, where he taught until his death. He was awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Pollack-Krasner Foundation and the Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs.