Cultural Writing. For 26 years the FBI watched the artist Arnold Mesches. Federal agents took note of his illustrations for political journals and magazines. They watched him march for peace and disarmament and demonstrate against Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. When Mesches obtained the files under the Freedom of Information Act, he discovered that some of the informants had been people he considered friends, colleagues and, in one case, a lover. In 2000, when Mesches began to turn these files into art, the climate of distrust they evoked seemed a historical curiosity relics of an era long past. After September 11, 2001, however, the mentality evoked by this collection no longer seems comfortably distant.