TATE MODERN

Art Newspaper
http://www.theartnewspaper.com/whatson/r esults.asp?id=1108967
WEDNESDAY, 3.2.10
London, United Kingdom

Tate Modern hosts a retrospective of Arshile Gorky (about 1904-1948),
the Armenian-born, US artist whose untimely death and tragic life
story has often overshadowed his work. "He's an artist who played a
pivotal role in mid-20th century American Art," says Matthew Gale,
the curator (modern) and head of display at Tate Modern. "It's timely
to look back at the origins of abstract expressionism.

He's a hinge between it and surrealism." Largely self-taught, although
at one point he claimed to have studied with Kandinsky in Paris,
the young Gorky's debt to Cezanne and Picasso is obvious.

He called them his "idols".

Gale challenges the idea that the artist's work in the early 1920s
was merely derivative, however. "What's evident in these works is
the elegance of his line, and his warm, 'Gorksian' colouring." Gorky
was born in what is now eastern Turkey, and along with thousands of
Armenians he fled during the massacres of the first world war.

His mother died of starvation en route.

Reaching the US in 1920, he assumed a new name and identity (he was
born Vostanig Manuk Adoian.) The exhibition includes two haunting
versions of The Artist and His Mother (about 1926-36), which refer
indirectly to his traumatic childhood.

Living in the heart of Lower Manhattan, Gorky cut a handsome and
charismatic figure in New York's fashionable avant-garde circles
during the late 1920s and 30s.

Work from that period shows his importance as a surrealist-Andre
Breton was an admirer-but also his move towards abstract expressionism.

Waterfall, 1943, acquired by the Tate in 1971, shows a "loosening
of line".

This and layers of paint preface the work of Rothko and Pollock in
later years, says Gale. Suffering from cancer and the injuries of
a car crash, and separated from his wife, he hung himself in 1948,
just as New York was becoming the centre of the modern art world.

Gale thinks that the artist's tragic life story can "get in the way"
of appreciating his work and importance. The retrospective has been
organised by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it has already
shown, in association with Tate and the Museum of Contemporary Art,
Los Angeles, where its tour ends (6 June until 20 September). J.P.

The Artist and His Mother, about 1926-36

The Artist and His Mother, about 1926-36