The Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky was a powerful proponent for informing/persuading/educating the audience to see not only the efficacy of the abstract imagery in Modernist works of art but also the need to sustain the audience’s gaze and convince them to “willingly suspend their initial disbelief”. Not an easy task in the third decade of the 20th century! In his Creative Art (1931) Gorky states: “The critics, artists, and public (are) suspended in the air like vultures, waiting in the air for the death of the distinctive art of this century.” Of course we know, blessed by our 82 years of historic distance, that Modernism and Modernist attitudes of the experimental artists would indeed prevail! But Gorky, like so many artists, knew the transformation would not be easy and a heavy price would be enacted on those experimental artists who were brave (or foolish) enough to push for change. What are your thoughts on Gorky’s statement?
Photograph of Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky
Arshile Gorky Working in his Studio on Activities on the Field, part of the Newark Airport mural, 1936 (part of the Federal Art Project)
Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944