From the tragedy of his Armenian childhood ending in genocide at the hands of the Turks and his escape to America, to the painful last years – pain he gave and pain he received – ending in his suicide at 48, Gorky’s life is a terrific story.
A way to say it is that Gorky rendered unclassifiable matter in lines and color on paper. In other words, his art is also nature, generative, growing beyond description even as it describes itself in forms for which we have words and lines to convey. There is a great amidst-ness in these drawings, a wholeness that in the words of the poet Clark Coolidge "excludes nothing." However we name this, it is free beyond what the word freedom seeks to contain.”
After arriving at Ellis Island, he moved for a brief time to New England to live with relatives. In 1924 he came to New York and began to study art. He was quickly made an art instructor and taught for years in order to survive as an artist. Throughout the late 1920s and thereafter, Gorky met and became friends with a great many artists, among them Stuart Davis, John Graham, Willem de Kooning, David Smith, and Isamu Noguchi.
In the 1930s and early 1940s, Gorky's position within the New York art scene brought him into contact with some of the Surrealists who had been forced to flee Europe during the Second World War. His friendship with the Surrealist poet André Breton, who greatly believed in Gorky's work, made a deep impression. Gorky's friendship with the Chilean-born artist Matta also contributed to the development of his mature style. Matta encouraged Gorky to improvise and experiment more on paper, introducing him to the Surrealist technique of automatic drawing.
Arshile Gorky, Drawing, 1946, graphite on paper, 47.6x62.9 cm (18-3/4x 24-3/4 in.) Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.