Hard to pinpoint what brought them together, this collection of opposites that endured to the end. Arshile Gorky was a late and marginal member in Andre Breton’s surrealist circle and he may have transmitted the importance of trusting introspection, and that reason, instrumental reason had a tendency to be reduced to a formula within a market society based on mass production. Art as formula. Formulas are efficient, but its not art, only decoration or kitsch if it shuts out the dark recesses of the mind. It snuffs out emotion which is haphazard, wasteful, highly uneven, unpredictable. In short an aesthetic that is anti-business.
But, Gorky was still something of a provincial fumbler with technical skills that could be termed bordering on incompetent. An imitator, first of Picasso and then of Miro, who his comprehension appeared only at the surface level, he was objectively a minor painter compared to the more accomplished de Kooning – who was an excellent draughtsman- although the authentic personal signature in his later abstract landscapes may have pushed de Kooning into new realms, but whetehr he could not have done this without Gorky is purely speculative; probably his work with the automatism of S.W. Hayter at Atelier 17 was more decisive. And the assertion that Gorky brought soul to de Kooning’s art that was not there before he met him is also unverifiable.Not to say that Gorky was not a compelling figure, yet Greenberg’s glorification of him as the last surrealist and first abstract expressionist is creative fantasy.
Kooning remembered him coming up to an artist who was having an opening and giving such exaggerated praise that it was clear that he was being sarcastic. ‘My,’ he’d say in a loud voice. ‘What faces! What expressions!’ De Kooning recognized Gorky’s rudeness but loved him anyway. ‘He didn’t care,’ said de Kooning. Gorky had ‘no feelings, socially.’Read More:http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~lmf47/class/thesis.html#artin30s40sa
The surrealist credo, at least where the paint hit the canvas, was to create subliminally suggestive representational forms that would synthesize with non-specifiable forms created by chance and personalized by gestural rhythms as for example Andre Masson and Joan Miro exemplify this approach. Although Gorky may have been affiliated with this; did he really delve deeply into it? Akin to someone copying software based on the surface without really understanding all the programming that underlied it. Of greater significance to De Kooning may have been Klee’s dictum of method of taking a stroll with a line. It was also referred to by, if you mixed Bauhaus and Breton- a recipe for artistic sectarian war- as exploration and hunting by linear and splattering means. Another more enigmatic response that could be posed is why these let it all hang out processes were so glaringly misogynous, like infants determining cosmic significance from the random dropping of their feces. The problem with this art is sustainability; the irrational, the chance and the accidental become routinized and secularized; freeing the art from conscious control and exploring the inner world of the subsconscious can devolve into intellectual masturbation in with the genericization of the brushstroke. Process is important. But it is not everything.
Obviously one has the debt to his rivalry with Pollock—the play with edges and symmetry, the frontal, layered images that invite and exclude the eye, the housepaint, the spatters and drips. Still, he stayed close to Gorky personally and as an artist, right down to Gorky’s bitter end. Mark Rothko, who studied with Gorky, learned technique, especially the slow spread of saturated color. Perhaps de Kooning learned more of an eye.
Gorky obsessed over Picasso, wh
rks behind de Kooning’s shard paintings and his women. Gorky kept returning to landscape themes, loosely based on his childhood in Armenia. Although de Kooning does, too, he seems to prefer the piers of New York City and Long Island to his native Rotterdam. Most of all, Gorky’s best compositions have those fluid curves. One can see them all over those de Koonings of the 1970s, before even those curves fade out into softer work of the 1980s….
…However, perhaps the 1970s’ abstractions have a closer interchange with other art as well. The curves flatten out like billboards, and every one looks larger than life. They look like handmade hand-me-downs, quite as much as an early Andy Warhol or James Rosenquist, much less late Warhol. They represent their own making as insistently as a Roy Lichtenstein Brushstroke. They may also look back much further to another ancestor of Pop Art, Stuart Davis, who introduced a pack of Lucky Strikes into a Cubist landscape. Looking back, de Kooning named Gorky, Davis, and John Graham as his American mentors—or as he put it, “The Three Musketeers”—and each in turn leads to Picasso’s influence. Read More:http://www.haberarts.com/kooning2.htm
Throughout the thirties, Gorky often imitated Picasso’s style very closely and, jokingly, his friends would call him “Picasso of Washington Square .” In spite of this, Gorky showed no remorse. As Harold Rosenberg said of Gorky in 1937, “When some important paintings [by Picasso] arrived in New York in which the Spaniard had allowed the paint to drip, artists at the exhibition found a chance for their usual game of kidding Gorky. ‘Just when youâ€™ve gotten Picassoâ€™s clean edge,’ one said in mock sympathy, ‘he starts to run over.’ ‘If he drips, I drip,’ replied Gorky proudly .”
While Gorky was copying Picasso almost exactly, Picasso’s cubism had a strong influence on de Kooning’s approach to composition from the late thirties and throughout the rest of his career. De Kooning said that he liked the style’s “unsure atmosphere of reflection.” Besides cubism, there are also clear influences of Picasso’s earlier styles, especially the rose period in de Kooning’s paintings of men.
Besides the more evident formal ideas of composition, color, and form, De Kooning’s biography explains that what de Kooning and Gorky most brought out of Picasso’s work was his powerful, romantic sense of “self.” Picasso was always “Picasso” even as he made and remade his work and styles. By this I mean that although his works changed dramatically and he had many different phases, it was always possible, in one way or another, to tell that Picasso was their creator: “Picasso’s ‘self’ seemed to flow effortlessly from his hand, as naturally as a spring, creating an inimitable touch and space .” Like Picasso, De Kooning and Gorky would go on to create works that were distinctly their own.
Picasso probably shaped Gorky’s love of the idea of ambiguity, which, in turn fueled de Kooning’s interest in the uncertainty of life and art.Read More:http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~lmf47/class/thesis.html#artin30s40s