Arshile Gorky and Jack Whitten, two consummate master artists of the 20th century, are shown together in this online exhibition. The presentation was inspired by Whitten himself, who paid tribute to Gorky in a speech he gave in 2017. ‘Arshile Gorky was my first love in painting,’ he explained, ‘it was Gorky who first excited my imagination.’ Whitten described the experience of looking at Gorky’s work as, ‘witnessing something that comes from the deep soul of an artist.’
Born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1939, Jack Whitten is celebrated for his innovative processes of applying paint to the surface of his canvases and transfiguring their material terrains. Although Whitten initially aligned with the New York circle of abstract expressionists active in the 1960s, his work gradually distanced from the movement's aesthetic philosophy and formal concerns, focusing more intensely on the experimental aspects of process and technique that came to define his practice.
Arshile Gorky was born an ethnic Armenian in Khorkom, Van, Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey) in c. 1904. Fleeing the genocide that claimed the life of his mother, he immigrated to the United States as a teenage refugee in 1920. After five years with relatives in Massachusetts, Gorky moved to New York and changed his name in honor of the celebrated Russian poet. Refusing all categories, whether artistic or political, as necessarily reductive, Gorky forsook assimilation in favor of celebrating his otherness, becoming a central figure of the cultural milieu of a city on the brink of Modernism.