New Books — Arshile Gorky

From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky

by Matthew Spender

M Gorky .G65 S68 1999

From Kirkus Reviews
“A thoughtful, emotionally engaged biography of one of the most talentedand secretiveabstract painters of the 1940s. To research this book (at the outset, anyway) Spender had only to turn his own extended family; he married Gorky’s eldest daughter, Maro, in 1967. But the task was a challenge: Gorky (190448) excelled in spinning myths and was incredibly closemouthed about his past, even with his second wife, Mougouch, and their children. The facts suggest a credible reason: Born Vostanig Adoian to a poor Armenian farmer in eastern Turkey, the boy fled his homeland with his mother and siblings when the Turks began massacring Armenians in 1915. They eventually made it to the US, arriving in the Armenian enclave of Watertown, Mass., in 1920. Vostanig changed his name to Arshile Gorky (probably lifting the surname from novelist Maxim Gorky) and began a career as an artist. Wildly talented and able to copy the style of everyone from Czanne to Picasso, he found his way to New York in 1925. His elusiveness and occasionally abrasive intensity kept other artists at arm’s length, however; only a few, including Willem de Kooning, remained lifelong friends. As his career progressed, this intensity slowly began to take an ever greater toll on Gorkys mental stability. Spender does not gloss over his subject’s difficulties; he writes most powerfully, in fact, of Gorky’s terrifying psychological demise and eventual suicide. The rest of the book, however, suffers from the author’s prosaic narrative style; as smoldering a character as Gorky surely merits a biography with more passion and fire than this. Approaching the enigma of the man, Spender (Within Tuscany: Reflections on Time and Place, 1992) looks for literal meaning beneath the artist’s metaphors; although he does a thoroughly credible job, Gorky remains elusive and mystifying.”

Black Angel : The Life of Arshile Gorky by Nouritza Matossian M Gorky .G65 M38 2000

From Library Journal
“Matossian follows Gorky from the village of his birth to his lonely suicide 44 years later, concentrating less on his art than his oft-strained relationships with everyone else. Her generally limp chronological telling is enlivened by an occasional interesting disclosure, such as his plan (unrealized, alas) to camouflage the entirety of New York City during World War II.”

 Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings by Janie C. Lee and Melvin P. Lader M Gorky .G64 A4 2003

From the Whitney exhibition
“Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) was a seminal figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement. His drawings are beautiful, complex, and sensual creations, the products of a technical mastery that bespoke a new power of abstraction within modern art. They are also pivotal to the understanding of his art and play a major part in the development and realization of his paintings. This handsome volume, and the exhibition it accompanies-the first retrospective ever assembled of this influential artist’s drawings-focus on how Gorky’s drawings function both in relation to his paintings and as individual works of art.

Gorky’s changing styles and precise approach to drawing are discussed in detail, and contrasted with the spontaneous and direct execution generally associated with Abstract Expressionism. The works range from small, intimate drawings to major, large-scale pieces; all are reproduced in superb full color. These rich and evocative drawings are an inspiration to new generations of artists and art lovers alike.  Janie C. Lee is a curator of drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Melvin P. Lader, a professor of art history at George Washington University, has been studying Gorky for 25 years. He is the author of the forthcoming Gorky catalogue raisonné.”

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