UB Art Gallery Presents "Arnold Mesches: FBI Files"

Release Date: June 24, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "Arnold Mesches: The FBI Files," an exhibition of approximately 40 collages and 5 large paintings by artist Arnold Mesches, opens to the public in the UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus at 11 a.m. on Monday, June 28.

A closing reception for the artist will be held from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 10 in the gallery.

Mesches, who grew up in Buffalo, creates work informed by world history and his own experiences during the Depression, World War II, the Cold War and the McCarthy "Red Scare" era. His paintings, first exhibited in Los Angeles in the 1940s, are included in a large number of major museum collections worldwide, and have been featured in 102 solo exhibitions, including "Echoes: Survey of a Century" at The Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University in 2001. His oeuvre explores contemporary philosophical and social debates through collage, drawings and expressionistic paintings.

In the 1950s, Mesches painted a series of works responding to the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were accused of communist espionage. When this series of paintings was stolen from the artist's studio in 1956, Mesches suspected the FBI. In 2000, through the Freedom of Information Act, Mesches discovered and gained access to 760 pages of his FBI files covering intelligence about his activities in protests, personal life and work between 1945 and 1972. Through these files, Mesches became aware of the hundreds of FBI officials who were in his life for 22 years: lovers, friends, models, truck drivers, fellow artists, teachers. The artist still has no information about the 200 paintings and drawings that vanished from his studio or the dozens of pages missing from his FBI files from the six months surrounding the date of the theft.

The striking visual character of the typed FBI files, in which large portions of text were obscured by black marker, inspired Mesches to combine the actual pages from the files with newspaper clippings, photographs, paintings, drawings, and hand-written texts, creating vividly colored "contemporary illuminated manuscripts" that depict current events of the time. The works featured in "Arnold Mesches: FBI Files" are collages of color, ideas and historical references.

The exhibition was organized by P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center Associate Curator Daniel Marzona.

UB Art Gallery is funded by The Visual Arts Building Fund, The Seymour H. Knox Foundation Fine Arts Fund and The Fine Arts Center Endowment.

UB Art Gallery's summer hours, in effect through Sept. 5, are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery will be closed on Sept. 6 for Labor Day and will re-open on Sep. 7 following its fall hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For additional information, please call 716-645-6912.

Media Contact Information

John Della Contrada
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