Joel Mesler


Joel Mesler: Down and Out in Beverly Hills 

Kantor Gallery is pleased to present “Down and Out in Beverly Hills”, an exhibition of new paintings from the Estate of Joel Mesler. All pigment on linen, the works explore the artist’s relationship with his hometown of Los Angeles, where he grew up, and worked as an art dealer for many years. These paintings feature Mesler’s trademark figures: middle aged men, sometimes in drag, trying to hold a smile in the face of existential dread, looking like quaaluded-up Giacomettis. Their happy-sad physiognomy is all the more telling in Los Angeles, in the warm breeze of dashed hopes.

These figures, long the focal point of Mesler’s output, here begin to vanish into the scenery. Swimming pools, palm trees, deco signage, we’ve seen all this before. That is the problem of Los Angeles, it’s all been seen before. Yet, having grown up here, Mesler peels back the veneer of the visible, playing LA’s stereotypes against themselves. A dense wall of fronds owes as much to Rousseau as it does to the Beverly Hills Hotel wallpaper, which inspired it. Ruscha, Hockney, and other memories of art history are balanced against Mesler’s own. Instead of Every blah-bla-blah on the Sunset Strip, we have a Proustian psychogeography whereby the terrors and joys of life are manifest in the most unlikely sensations; instead of a tea-soaked madelaine we have the faint smell of chlorine hovering above a swimming pool, the home address in a posh neighborhood where it all went wrong. This is Mesler’s most personal show to date.

Until he debuted a series of drawings at NADA New York in May 2016, Joel Mesler was foremost known as an art dealer. However, he was trained as an artist and has created work throughout his dealing career, often at home after his children go to bed. These periods of productivity are marked by fervent output, and followed by lulls of creative dormancy during which he attends to the needs of the gallery, as well as those of his family. Tracing the contours of his career, one can identify several pronounced periods of artmaking, each with a clear end and beginning. Each work can potentially be his last, and as such, the practice is best considered in a semi-final condition. It is an estate—a term normally reserved for the work of a deceased artist.

Though earlier iterations of the Estate were marked by a swift, scrappy provisionalism, these paintings find him Mesler secure in his abilities as an image-maker, and a painter. His paint handling is both fluid and crisp; light, yet pervasive. The pigment hovers on the surface of the linen at that the same time that it sinks in—a cutting remark at some afterparty, for some Hollywood movie.


Born in Los Angeles in 1974, Joel Mesler received an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Since opening his first gallery Dianne Pruess in Los Angeles in 2000, he has worked as a dealer and an artist. He has operated several galleries over the past two decades, including Rental in Los Angeles and New York, Untitled in New York, and Retrospective in Hudson, NY. Recent exhibitions include The Estate of Joel Mesler, presented by Cultural Counsel at NADA, NY; Fish People, presented by Sotheby’s S2 and Cultural Counsel at the Surf Lodge in Montauk, N; and American People, presented at Tori Gallery, Paris. He currently co-owns Feuer/Mesler with Zach Feuer. He lives in New York with his wife and three children.


Cultural Counsel is a New York-based consultancy focused on communications, strategic partnerships, and the development of public programming in the worlds of contemporary art, design, and architecture. Through our valued relationships with artists, writers, curators, patrons, and creative professionals, we facilitate significant contributions to the cultural dialogue. Established by Adam Abdalla in 2015.