Louis Ribak emigrated to the United States from Lithuania, moving to New York in 1922, where he studied with John Sloan at the Art Students League. He quickly made a name for himself as an influential social realist painter in New York. During this period, he collaborated on a mural in Rockefeller Center with Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
Beginning with work that was included in the 1934 Venice Biennial and continuing with his social realist painting of that decade, Ribak captured the vibrant images of urban life with considerable power.
In 1944 he moved to Taos, New Mexico with his wife Bea Mandelman at the invitation of Joan Sloan. The move to New Mexico greatly influenced his work and he gradually moved to a more modernist, abstract style.