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First Major Retrospective of Arshile Gorky in Europe for Twenty Years Opens at Tate

February 11, 2010

Arshile Gorky, “Waterfall”, 1943. Tate. © Tate Painting.

LONDON.- Tate Modern presents the first major retrospective of Arshile Gorky (c.1904-1948) to be seen in Europe for twenty years. Celebrating one of the most powerful and poetic American artists of his generation, “Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective” examines the extraordinary contribution of this seminal figure in Abstract Expressionism. The exhibition spans Gorky’s 25 year career and offers the opportunity to see this complex and moving body of work as a whole. It includes more than 120 paintings and works on paper, many of which have not been shown in the UK previously.

With little formal academic training, Arshile Gorky absorbed European Modernism through both his studies and teaching and went on to become a pivotal figure in mid-century American art. In New York in 1941, Gorky encountered the exiled European Surrealists, whose leader, André Breton, welcomed him as part of their movement. His lyrical abstractions anticipated Abstract Expressionism, which emerged in 1940s New York amongst a circle of artists who valued spontaneity of expression and individuality, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Gorky’s assimilation of European and American influences resulted in a distinctive synthesis of artistic cultures. Paralleling the Surrealists’ idea of automatism – the free flowing release of the hand from conscious control of the mind – he forged an entirely new type of abstract painting.

Structured around a number of significant moments in Gorky’s oeuvre and arranged broadly chronologically, the exhibition reveals the evolution of Gorky’s visual vocabulary. It reassesses work from the 1920s and 1930s throwing light on the significance of early developments in his practice. Highlights include the remarkable pair of paintings “The Artist and his Mother” (circa 1926-36, Whitney Museum of American Art, and 1929-42, National Gallery of Art, Washington) which act as memorials to Gorky’s lost childhood and confrontations with exile … More

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