Hugh Mesibov is a 20th century American artist whose work displays key elements of the New York experience including Surrealist, Abstract Expressionist and figurative works across multiple mediums. A recipient of national and international acclaim, Mesibov is included in America’s great collection of contemporary art including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes foundation, the Whitney Museum of Art. A veteran of over 30 one-man shows, Mesibov has exhibited widely his works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic as well as etchings, lithographs and monoprints.
Born in Philadelphia, Mesibov first studied at the Fleisher Memorial Art School, then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Barnes Foundation. During the 1930’s he worked with funding from the Works Progress Administration producing paintings, murals and prints depicting Depression Era themes of working life and social commentary. During this period his experimental work in printmaking led to his co-invention (with Michael Gallagher and Dox Thrash) of the Carborundum Print process with which he made the first prototype, “Mystic”. His invention on the Color Carborundum Print brought him national recognition.
Mesibov also began to develop his talent for mural painting. The U.S. Treasury Section of Fine Arts commissioned his work “The Steel Industry” which hangs to this day in a post office in Hubbard, Ohio.
Mesibov’s work from the late 1930s explores social issues of the day, drawn in a lively and bold style reflecting the modernist works from the Barnes Collection. Yet, early on his horror of war and destruction surfaced in the 1937 work, “Bombing of Nanking”. In 1940 he had his first one man-show at the Carlin Gallery, Philadelphia. At this time his work became increasingly abstract, initially formal and angular, then eventually surreal. During World War II, while employed at a shipyard, his work echoed the rigors of both shipyard and war. In particular, the painting “The Siege”, 1943, refers to Stalingrad, in a bizarre and horrific dream-like cityscape.
Mesibov moved to New York City in 1945 and began an intensely productive phase of his career. His first New York one-man show was at The Chinese Gallery, 1947, where Milton Avery, Nell Blaine, and Ralph Rosenborg also exhibited. There Mesibov’s work became more abstract, but also more painterly and dynamic. As part of the Formations Group, he exhibited at The New School in 1948 and 1949, with friends John Ferron and Boris Margo. Mesibov was a member of “The Club” when the abstract expressionists converged into a school; he associated with Franz Kline and Ibram Lassaw in particular, rubbing shoulders with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko. Mesibov had shows at the Morris Gallery, 1955, and Gallery Mayer, 1959. In 1956 and 1958 he exhibited at the Artists Gallery, with his friend Richard Pousette-Dart.
During all this time Mesibov remained loyal to the landscape. Summer visits to Aspen, Colorado, from 1951 to 1954, resulted in a body of work, mostly watercolors, characterized by a perception of space drawn from the vast American West. These views reveal extreme control of the medium and a continued exploration of abstraction. Visits to Monhegan Island, Maine, in 1956 and 1958 elicited an intensified expressionism. The heightened energy of the Atlantic surf translated into aggressive brush strokes and dramatic color on canvas.
During the 60’s Mesibov found himself inspired by literature. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge and Cervante’s “Don Quixote” each produced a series of more than thirty works. During this time, Mesibov produced some of his largest works on canvas. Working in his preferred canvas medium, acrylic, he painted on canvases stretched sometimes to 8’ x 10’. In 1972, Mesibovproduced a mural for the Temple Beth El in Spring Valley, New York, that consisted of three large joined canvases measuring 6’ x 16’ each. The mural theme, based on the biblical Book of Job, depicts Job’s challenge to God and ultimately his suffering and redemption.
Mesibov returned to watercolor during the 80’s. Producing a large body of work he brought a lifetime of experience to express winter, summer and pastoral scenes in his “Pond” and “Sunroom” series.
During the 1990’s, Mesibov was occupied with developing new techniques in print-making. The medium of monoprint, which allows a single print to be taken from a prepared plate, provided a rich area of technical as well as creative challenge. Experimenting with pigment, paper and adhesive, Mesibov again pioneered techniques in this increasingly popular medium.
Work by Hugh Mesibov is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York University, and Syracuse University, NY; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation, Merion Station, and the Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, PA; the Worcester Museum of Art, Massachusetts; the Library of Congress, Washington, DC; the Art Institute of Chicago and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; the Wolfsonian/Florida International University, Miami Beach; the Museum of Art, the University of Oregon, Eugene; the Newark Museum, New Jersey; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; and the British Museum, London.