Scope and Contents
The papers of New York City and Gainesville, Florida based painter Arnold Mesches (1923-2016) measure 13.6 linear feet and date from 1939-2015. The collection documents Mesches' politically engaged career and work process through biographical material, correspondence, writings, gallery and exhibition files, project files, subject files, teaching files, personal business records, printed material, and photographic material.
Biographical material includes addresses, family papers, interview transcripts, life documents, identification cards, a residency file, resumes, biographical statements, and travel records. Correspondence is both personal and professional in nature and is with wife, novelist Jill Ciment, family, friends, artists, museums, galleries, and magazines. Notable correspondents include Arthur Danto, Robert Storr, June Wayne, and Howard Zinn. Single items of correspondence are from Kerry James Marshall, Henry Miller, Robert Motherwell, and Ben Shahn.
Writings include manuscripts of unpublished novels and short stories, autobiographical writings, recordings of dreams, introductions to artists, a journal, memorials, project proposals, statements on art and politics, notes from Mesches' psychotherapy sessions, as well as numerous outlines, fragments, and notes.
Gallery and exhibition files document dozens of Mesches' gallery and museum exhibitions, including his 2013 retrospective at Miami Dade College, Arnold Mesches: A Life's Work.
Project files consist of grant files, activism files, project notebooks, and art projects. Activism files pertain to the Los Angeles Peace Tower, Arts Coalition for Freedom of Expression, and the pardon of muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. Project notebooks contain preliminary sketches, technical notes including color palette and paint formulas, Polaroids of in-process works, and source material. Over 100 art project files further detail individual works, and include preliminary drawings in pen, pencil and charcoal, as well as collages, source material, and Polaroids. Several of Mesches' serial works are well represented here, including Anomie, Comings Attractions, and The FBI Files.
Subject files consist of a sequence of alphabetical files maintained by Mesches as reference material. Teaching files document posts at New York University and other institutions and include course descriptions, lists of materials, course notes, newsletters, reference articles, and correspondence.
Personal business records include documentation related to donations, Mesches' estate, gallery representation, inventories, properties, artwork shipment, supplies, and website design.
Printed material documents Mesches' career as both political illustrator and fine artist. Found here are brochures, leaflets, and Frontier and The Nation magazines featuring illustrations by Mesches. Calendars, newsletters, clippings, announcements, exhibition catalogs, and press releases document Mesches' gallery and museum exhibitions.
Photographic material includes hundreds of photographic prints, contact sheets, slides, and negatives of Arnold Mesches, Mesches' family and friends, studio, and artworks from his seven decade long career.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives of American Art in 2017 by Jill Ciment, Mesches' widow.
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Hilary Price in 2017.