ART OF THE SOUTHWEST

Louis Leon Ribak

Russian/American, 1902-1979

Biography

Louis Ribak emigrated with his family from Russian Poland to New York City in 1912. He studied at the Art Students League during the early 1920’s under John Sloan. Sloan was an editor for the radical periodical, New Masses, and prompted the young artist to illustrate for the publication.

In 1929, Ribak’s involvement with New Masses led him to become a founding member of a closely associated group, the John Reed Club. Over the next few years he exhibited with the club and, in 1933, he received attention from critics including the New York Sun for his painting, “Striking Farmers.” Ribak joined the Silk Screen Group in the late 1930’s as he believed, along with a group of liberal artists, that the print medium was the “people’s art of the twentieth century.” Also during the 1930’s, Ribak worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a muralist.

In 1942, he married fellow artist Beatrice Mandelman. In the mid 1940’s, the couple followed the advice of John Sloan and moved to New Mexico. The move was prompted in part by the desire for a healthier climate for Ribak but also because they felt a need to leave New York as they had become disillusioned by “dissention between Social Realists and Abstract Expressionists.”

In 1947, the Ribaks’ opened and instructed at the Taos Valley Art School. The school closed in 1953 when the couple returned to New York City. However, the move back to New York was short-lived and they settled permanently in Taos in 1956.

In 1959, the couple opened the Gallery Ribak in their home. The gallery showed their own work as well as that of other Taos artists. In addition to the gallery, Ribak regularly exhibited in other locations throughout the region. In New Mexico, Ribak shifted his to focus entirely to full abstraction saying that as an artist he was “not truly anything. I am against everything. Damned abstract[ionists], realists, illustrators…”

Exhibited: Society of Independent Artists, 1925; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Annual, 1933, 1946, 1950, 1953; World’s Fair, New York, 1939; Golden Gate Exposition, San Francisco, 1939; Corcoran Gallery biennial, 1947; Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Newark Museum; Springfield Museum of Fine Art; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Walker Art Center; Whitney Museum of American Art; Worcester Museum of Art.