JOEL MESLER’S BEVERLY HILLS UPBRINGING INSPIRES NEW WORKS
MAY 9, 2019
by KRISTOPHER FRASER
COURTESY of NADINE JOHNSON
Joel Mesler has come a long way from his days as a Manhattan gallerist. The artist, now based in the East Hamptons, was recently the artist in residence at the Mark Hotel. He made a name for himself by championing black artists like Henry Taylor and Rashid Johnson early in their careers before they shoot to stardom.
Mesler’s inspiration for his latest works have been his past traumas of his Beverly Hills upbringing and his memories of his youth at The Polo Bar. The artist has had a very interesting career trajectory. In 2000 he moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles and lived in a basement without a bathroom and started making paintings and showing them in the ground floor of the building. He had his share of galleries on the Lower East side prior to and after that period in L.A., and three summers ago he moved out to the Hamptons and started his current gallery.
“I’ve been able to do shows that I wouldn’t be able to do in the city,” Mesler said. “Long Island is a more neutral territory so people aren’t really threatened by you, because you aren’t competing with a whole lot of other artists. There’s a lot of competition in the city, and it’s a lot of fight to get support. In the Hamptons it’s easier to get support and I’ve been able to get collectors to see my work that I wasn’t able to get before who wouldn’t even come to my Manhattan galleries.”
Burn it Down by Joel Mesler
Mesler actually used to represent other artists in addition to being one himself. When he moved out to Long Island he decided to make his gallery just a project space. Now he does four shows a year, which was a big relief from the ten shows a year he was doing back when he was in New York.
The current themes in his work are all based on the same day of his life when he was 11 years old and he was at brunch with his family, and his dad had a nervous breakdown. “He pulled the table out and eggs benedict came down on my mother’s lap and got up and said, ‘I can’t take this anymore,” Mesler said. “My mom said, ‘Joel, go chase your father.’ I remember the wallpaper at the Beverly Hills hotel. All of my work has been just about that.”
Feelings by Joel Mesler
“I chose art as my medium because there was nothing else I was good at.”
Hollywood by Joel Mesler
Hollywood by Joel Mesler
Jean-Georges Portrait by Joel Mesler
Despite this very dramatic moment in his life, Mesler says his childhood was quite good until his parent’s got divorced. He does define his dad’s nervous breakdown as the thing that defined him most. “I chose art as my medium because there was nothing else I was good at,” Mesler said. “I’d be a terrible plumber. I’m the worst art scholar because I destroy walls. I didn’t have a choice and the art world accepts weird eccentric people. I discovered art was my thing in college, and I had no idea what I was going to do until then.”
The artist has settled quite comfortably in the Hamptons, but he still have other new projects on the horizon aside from his art. He just did a book release on the Frieze Ferry, and signed and did portraits of the people buying the book on the Ferry, which was quite an experience since he gets seasick. The artist has come a long way from his Beverly Hills upbringing, but is here to remind us that those not so little moments in our youth can make a whole artistic career. A portrait is worth a thousand words, and he’s said a million of them.