Louis Leon Ribak (3 December 1902 – 1979) was an American social realist and abstract
painter who was a member of the “Taos Moderns” group of artists.
Born in the then-Lithuanian province of Grodno, Ribak emigrated to New York City
at the age of ten with his family. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the
Fine Arts for a year in 1922, and the Art Students League of New York in 1923 under
John Sloan. In 1929, he became a founding member of the John Reed Club, which
was organized to support leftist artists and writers and was closely associated with
the Marxist magazine The New Masses.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Ribak painted in a Social Realist style, exhibiting with fellow
Social Realists like Reginald Marsh and Raphael Soyer. In the 1930s he also worked
as a muralist for the Works Progress Administration; among these works is the 1939
mural View Near Albemarle in the U.S. Post Office in Albemarle, North Carolina.
In 1933, he assisted Diego Rivera on his mural Man at the Crossroads, commissioned
for Rockefeller Center and destroyed before completion.
Ribak met fellow artist Beatrice Mandelman in New York at a dance sponsored
by the Artists Union, and the two married in 1942. He served in the military for
two years during the Second World War and was discharged because of asthma.
Seeking a healthier climate, Ribak and Mandelman moved to Taos, New Mexico
in 1944. At this point, Ribak shifted to a more abstract style and brighter color palette.
In 1947, he and Mandelman founded the Taos Valley Art School, and Rivak was its
director and an instructor until it closed in 1955.
Ribak died in Taos in 1979. His work is in the permanent collections of the Whitney
Museum of American Art (New York), the Brooklyn Museum (New York), and the Newark
Museum (New Jersey), among other institutions.
The Mandelman-Ribak Foundation was established to preserve the legacy of Ribak
and Mandelman; among other activities, it catalogued a half century of their work held
in the Mandelman-Ribak Collection. In 2014, the collection and associated personal
papers were donated to the University of New Mexico.