Arshile Gorky (b. c.1902, Khorkom, Armenia; d. 1948 Sherman, Conn.) was a seminal figure in the movement toward abstraction that transformed American art in the middle of the 20th century. Born in an Armenian village on the eastern border of Ottoman Turkey, Gorky was a first-hand witness to the Turkish government's Armenian Genocide of 1915, which led the artist’s family and thousands of others to flee. In 1920, Gorky emigrated to the United States and eventually settled in New York, where he became a largely self-taught artist.

At a time when the American avant-garde privileged originality over traditional working methods, Gorky was a nonconformist who developed his personal vocabulary through a series of intensive apprenticeships to the styles of other artists, including Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, and Joan Miro, before developing his own unique and deeply influential visual language in the early 1940s. Gorky’s prominence in the New York art scene led him to befriend Andre Breton and Roberto Matta—fellow emigres and key figures in the surrealist group—who came to have an enormous impact on Gorky’s mature style.

Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective
positions Gorky as a crucial founder of abstract expressionism, but also as a passionate and dedicated artist whose tragic life often informed his groundbreaking and deeply personal paintings. The first full-scale survey of Gorky’s work since 1981, this timely exhibition features Gorky’s most significant paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including two masterworks from MOCA’s permanent collection—Study for The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1943) and Betrothal I (1947).

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