Room 4

Arshile Gorky a retrospective exhibition banner


The various Federal Art Projects, established under President Roosevelt’s New Deal, offered artists some support in the desperate economic difficulties of the Depression. Gorky was attached to the mural division and would eventually work on four large-scale schemes, both public and private. To meet the demands of scale, technique and subject associated with mural painting, he developed a mechanistic style of abstraction that he believed could communicate with a mass audience. However, his murals for Newark Airport were greeted with incomprehension and nearly rejected. Most of them were lost or destroyed in the 1940s. Indeed, the surviving evidence of Gorky’s murals consists largely of his preparatory work. Although he never travelled to Europe, Gorky kept himself informed about avant-garde developments there and was alert to Cubism, abstract art and eventually Surrealism. He bought art magazines and frequented the Gallery of Living Art, where A.E. Gallatin exhibited his collection of contemporary European art. This allowed him to absorb the examples of Picasso and Léger, and to become a leading figure in the city’s art scene.