Whitney Museum opens Gorky retrospective

— Arshile Gorky spent three weekends in 1942 at the rural Connecticut farm of fellow artist Saul Schary, staring closer and closer at the landscape until the apple orchard before him transformed into patterns and lines.

Gorky immersed himself in those surroundings, translating the images imprinted into his mind onto a series of drawings that culminated in his most abstract work.

The 42-inch-by-52-inch pastel on paper "Apple Orchard" (1943-1946) came to influence other artists and works, such as Willem de Kooning's 1946 oil on paper, "Fire Island." The two works share similar abstract shapes and lines intersecting on a mustard-colored background.

"Apple Orchard" is among 140 Gorky drawings on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art through Feb. 15. "Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings" features some 40 works never before shown in the United States and about 20 on exhibit for the first time ever.

Gorky was born Vosdanik Adoian around 1904 in the village of Khorkom in the province of Van, east Armenia. His mother died of starvation and his family was displaced following the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915. He immigrated to the United States in 1920, and took the name Arshile Gorky to begin a new life.

He briefly lived with relatives in New England and, in 1924, he came to New York to study art. He taught art for years, and became friends with other artists, including Stuart Davis, John Graham, David Smith, Isamu Noguchi and de Kooning

A series of personal tragedies, including a fire in his studio that destroyed much of his work, a serious operation and an automobile accident, preceded Gorky's suicide on July 21, 1948, in Sherman, Conn.

The exhibition will travel to The Menil Collection in Houston next year.


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