Fun In Paint


I don't know why I do it either, but here is Washington Post arts blogger Blake Gopnik ruminating on just what it is that makes Arshile Gorky's paintings so upbeat, so appealing:

The most striking thing about this AbEx show is how cheery and bright many of its paintings seem - as cheery as Gorky's "Garden [in Sochi]" - given that the movement is so often associated with gloomy existentialism, post-war angst and the dark Freudian unconscious. Could it be that its true roots are in the post-war boom and a country, and a city, coming into their own as cultural and economic hot spots? (But if so, why is Gorky having fun in paint in 1941 already? Or could it be that painting is an inherently affirmative, cheery act, and that painters can only ever mimic gloom, with the risk that silver linings may show through at any moment, in any work.)
Fun in paint? I'd have gone with, "tortured nostalgia for the garden his family had to flee during the Armenian genocide, during an attempt to blot out the horrors of the forced refugee march where his mother died of starvation, but not before instilling in her young son a desperate ambition which became the altar upon which a perennially destitute, lying, insecure Gorky sacrificed his own family and which, after abandonment, cancer and a debilitating car wreck, led him to hang himself from a tree." But if you see "fun in paint," I guess that's...

Anyway, the Garden in Sochi paintings are more properly considered surrealist, transitional, or proto-AbEx, similar to early the figurative/narrative/symbolic work by the other two members of the Fun In Paint School, Pollock and Rothko.

An interview with Gorky's wife Agnes Magruder, conducted on the occasion of Tate Modern's Gorky retrospective. She seems far more interesting than the subject matter lets on. []
Related: Gorky was an expert camofleur

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

post info

first published: November 18, 2010.

next older post:
Have You Seen Me? Jasper Johns' Little Short Circuit Flag

next newer post:
Cage's 4'33" For Orchestra

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99