Abstract Expressionism

Ab Ex Contents

Ab Ex Essays


Abstract Expressionism 1934

by Gary Comenas (2018, 2016, 2009)

The Great Depression continues. The College Art Association estimates that 1400 artists are in need of urgent financial help. (DK112)

January 17, 1934: Arshile Gorky finishes sketch for 1934.

On the 17th of January Gorky reported to the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) that his drawing for the mural titled 1934 (for the new Port Authority building) was almost complete and offered to send the completed sketch. The mural had a start date of February 16, 1934. (BA219)

Early 1934: Milton Avery is terminated from the PWAP.

After seeing three landscapes by Milton Avery, an administrator for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) reported, "oil work submitted very poor. Gouaches seen elsewhere and artist's reputation suggest that his work is better than examples submitted would indicate." Avery then started an industrial scene painting measuring 32" by 48". The reviewing committee suggested that he "not exceed 40 inches" and that he should "work in washes which" Avery, according to them, was "more suited" toward and "experienced in executing." PWAP supervisor Lloyd Goodrich (who would later serve as the Director of the Whitney Museum from 1958 to 1968), also requested a "smaller scale." Avery then started work on a 28" x 36" industrial scene but his progress report on the work was returned because he had not included a completion date. Two weeks later he was terminated from the project. (RO121) Sally Avery later recalled that her husband was involved with the PWAP only for "a couple of months." (SW)

Early 1934: David Alfaro Siqueiros arrives in New York. (PP317)
February 1934: Barnett Newman meets his future wife.

Barnett Newman met Annalee Greenhouse at a faculty meeting at Grover Cleveland High School. Newman and Annalee got into an argument because Annalee, who shared Newman's passion for music, had defended Wagner's operas. (Newman could prove his point about the operas by singing a scene from one of them, taking all the voices). Annalee ended the argument by storming out the room, slamming the door behind her. They married in 1936. (TH14)

Annalee Greenhouse was born August 15, 1909 in Palestine as her family emigrated from Russia to the United States. By the time Newman met her she was a graduate of Hunter College and had also studied French at Columbia University and the university in Nancy, France. She had learned secretarial skills so she could teach shorthand. (MH)

February 1934 : The Artists' Union is founded.

Most sources place this in February 1934 although Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan place it in 1933 in de Kooning: An American Master:

From de Kooning: An American Master:

... the most important change came with the founding in 1933 of the Artists' Union. One of its key organizers was de Kooning's close friend from A.S. Beck, Robert Jonas. From roughly 1931 to 1933, Jonas was a mainstay of the Workers International Relief, a Communist-backed organization aimed at mobilizing the unemployed and lobbying for government assistance. By 1933, he and a few like-minded artists founded the Unemployed Artists' Union. Later known simply as the Artists' Union, it became by the mid-thirties a central focus of artistic life in New York. The headquarters was on Sixth Avenue between Nine and Tenth Streets, close to Union Square and many downtown studios. Almost every artist belonged to the union, though not all were politically active. Communists dominated the union. (DK112)

Stuart Davis was elected president of the union in 1934.

Saul Schary:

The Commies were very much in evidence during the Depression. They went around with an expression: the cat who swallowed the canary! Tomorrow the great white Father was gonna come over from Russia and take over. Stuart Davis was gonna be the Commissar of Art, so and so was gonna be this or that. They were pretty sure of themselves. They started the Artists' Union. To get into the WPA you had to belong to the Artists' Union, which was controlled by them.

Union members would often demonstrate or participate in marches such as the May Day parade. According to de Kooning biographers Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, "De Kooning loved to tell of one May Day parade when he saw the impeccably turned out, essentially royalist [John] Graham marching among the ranks of the proletariat. Raising a beautifully gloved fist, his bearing militarily erect, Graham cried, "We want bread!" (DK111-113)

When the WPA and the Federal Art Project was announced in 1935, the Artists' Union would be instrumental in getting many of its members accepted by the project. The Union tended to prefer representational art with a political agenda, such as the work of Diego Rivera. Abstract painter George McNeil recalled "The modern artists were suffered... They weren't completely ridiculed, but they were treated as aesthetes, as antisocial. They had to fight for everything at that time." (DK124-5) As the 1930s progressed, the Union's members became increasingly divided between those who supported the government in Moscow (Stalin) and those who supported the rebellious Trotsky.

Although both de Kooning and Gorky would sometimes attend union events, they were less enthusiastic about the Social Realist art favoured by the Communists active in the union. During one meeting, when Gorky was giving a lecture (with de Kooning operating the slide projector), a heckler interrupted Gorky, demanding to know what Gorky's ideas about art had to do with the class struggle. Gorky responded by informing the heckler that "Proletariat art is poor art for poor people." (DK133)

Ferdinand Lo Pinto [artist]:

"There was tremendous discussion about proletariat art and abstract art. Many guys, now very well known abstract painters, would have slit your throat and hung you, if they had the power. They were that adamant. It was a very hard battle. Gorky was like most of us, a little torn. He had social sympathies on the one side, but his aesthetic impulses were greater." (BA204)

February 2, 1934: Arshile Gorky's first one man show opens at the Mellon Gallery.

The show at the Mellon Gallery (at 27 South Street, Philadelphia) featured thirty-seven paintings from 1926-1930. Catalogue notes were written by Stuart Davis, Holger Cahill, Frederick Kiesler and Sidney Janis' wife, Harriet. The exhibition attracted little critical attention and and few sales. Stuart Davis bought four works including Still Life (with pitcher and aubergines). (BA219)

February 2 - 21, 1934: Mark Rothko's students exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition consisted of about 150 works by Rothko's young students at the Center Academy. Their work would also be shown at the Neumann Gallery, the New York Young Men's Association, the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish Theological Seminary. (RO116)

Rothko wrote an essay for the Brooklyn Jewish Center Review in early 1934 - his first published writing since his Yale Pest days - entitled "New Training for Future Artists and Art Lovers" in which he noted that "Painting is just as natural a language as singing or speaking. We all tell stories, narrate events, indulge in correspondence, sometimes with great feeling and artistry. Yet we do not feel that our expression in this medium is dependent on our knowledge of grammar, syntax or the rules of rhetoric." (RO116)

Second week of February 1934: Arshile Gorky's work is trashed.

A fire broke out in Gorky's sister's [Akabi's] house. Firemen flooded the cellar where at least nine Gorky paintings were stored. Akabi's daughter, Liberty ("Libby") recalled that one of the paintings was "a huge picture of a Spanish Don sitting in a chair - like Velàzquez" and that another painting was of a fishing boat from "when he [Gorky] was copying Van Gogh's style." Other paintings destroyed by the flood included portraits of Sirun and Vartoosh, including his final "big as a door" painting of Vartoosh. Akabi threw away the damaged canvases along with her damaged furniture. (BA220)

February 28 - March 28, 1934: "The First Municipal Art Exhibition" in the RCA building at Rockefeller Center.

The exhibition included four works by Arshile Gorky - a sketch of the planned mural for the Port Authority building, Organization No. 4 (oil painting), Nighttime of Nostalgia (pen and ink drawing) and Kiss (lithograph). (BA219/515)

1934: The John Reed Club is disbanded. (VH)

Philip Guston and Reuben Kaddish had painted murals for the Los Angeles branch of the Communist John Reed Club in late 1932/1933. The second exhibition of the ACA galleries after it opened in New York in August 1932, was "Selections from the John Reed Club." Although not as politically involved as artists like Stuart Davis, both Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning had, apparently, attended at least some John Reed Club meetings. According to Gorky biographer Nouritza Matossian, "Mistrusting the naiveté of Social Realist rhetoric, Gorky argued with [Stuart] Davis, who had given up painting and was pressing him to do the same. Gorky made floats for May Day parades and designed posters but he did not call them art. He joined committees, supported antifascist groups, but refused to stop painting. De Kooning watched him [Gorky] before packed audiences at the John Reed Club... Gorky condemned the Communist mural for the Rockefeller Center as backward-looking propaganda which did not advance the development of art."

Bernarda Shahn [wife of Social Realist Ben Shahn]:

"When I first went to New York... I went to the John Reed Club a few times. I joined. In fact, I did a lot of prints at the John Reed Club before I went anywhere else. I didn’t like the atmosphere of it very much... I didn’t like it because if anything in the world was doctrinaire – The attitude in the John Reed Club was that you really should take orders as an artist. You should do work that is dictated by Thirteenth Street, almost literally. Thirteenth Street means the Communist Party. That almost literally you were supposed to depict the causes, the chosen causes – you know, “free the Scottsboro boys” or “defend the Soviet Union.” This has nothing to do with art; nobody felt it, anyway. The John Reed Club was much more captive, so to speak, than the Artists’ Union. The Artists’ Union was infiltrated by that kind of thing, but the John Reed Club was totally that kind of thing. The Union had all kinds of people in it. It had people from other unions. The whole stone cutters union people were there. A lot of very conservative sculptors were part of the Artists’ Union. Most of the important painters in New York belonged to the Union." (BS)

March 1934: Willem de Kooning has a party - and meets Juliet Browner.

De Kooning's apartment was often used for informal parties - with music provided by his hi-tech (at the time) sound system. One of the guests at this particular party was Juliet Browner who grew up in the Bronx but had moved to Greenwich Village and modeled for artists, including de Kooning's friends, John Graham and Arshile Gorky. At one point during the party de Kooning put one of his favourite records on, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (which he could also whistle). It was the first time Juliet had heard it, saying later "I was so moved by the music I got up and danced until dawn... After that I just stayed." (DK115) De Kooning and Juliet started a sexual relationship which Nini found out about upon her return. The three of them discussed the situation and Nini moved out.

April 3 - April 28, 1934: Salvador Dali, Drawings and Etchings at the Julien Levy Gallery. (MA299)
April 24 - May 20, 1934: "National Exhibition of Art by the Public Works of Art Project" opens at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The exhibition got a good review by Edward Alden Jewell in the New York Times ("The Realm of Art: The Public Works of Art Project," April 29, 1934), but no works are described as particularly experimental or abstract.

Most of the art was home-grown art by home-grown artists, sometimes referred to as "Regionalism." No AbEx artists were mentioned in the article. Francis O'Connor, who wrote Federal Support for the Visual Arts, is quoted on the online Smithsonian mag site as saying "... at the time it was revelation to many people in America that the country even had artists in it."

The artists mentioned in the article included muralists Clarence Carter, Jack Creitzer, Clara McLean, Michael Sarisky, Dominico Mortellito, Frank Mochan, Brook Waring, Van Soeler, Frederick J. Mulhampt, Ora Coltman, Elton Fox, Robert Franklin Gates and the most famous of the group (if not the only famous one in the group), the artist Grant Wood who studied in Europe and is thought to have been a closeted homosexual. Probably his most famous painting (not mentioned in the article) is American Gothic painted in 1930.

American Gothic (1930) by Grant Wood (Pre-PWAP)

Artists mentioned in the article who did "smaller paintings" included Millard Sheets, Paul Starrett, Robert Tabor, Herman Maril, Erie Loran, A. E. Cederquist, H.A. Coon, Helen Dickson, Pino Lanni, Gertrude A. Lambert, Agnes Tait, Jacob Getlar Smith, Douglas Crockwell, Josephine Wupper, Ivan Hoon, Carl Gustav Nelson, Dorothea Tomlinson, Gerard Foster and "the exhibition's one outstanding piece of sculpture, 'Negro Mother and Child,'" by Maurice Glickman.

The PWAP was not a major force in the development of Abstract Expressionism, although it may have fed some of the Ab Ex artists who signed up for it. The article notes that the P.W.A.P. "began operating on Dec. 8 and is to be discontinued on April 28." According to the WPAmurals website, the PWAP was terminated on May 20, 1934, although "incompleted projects continue under various funding until July 1935." (The site does not give a source for that information.)

April 29, 1934: Arshile Gorky is dropped from the PWAP.

The reasons for dropping him are unclear but it presumably had to do with the fact that the official end date of the PWAP was April 28 (see entry above). Gorky had submitted a report on March 7th to the PWAP noting that he was "carefully, working constantly" on his mural and had submitted drawings to Juliana Force and Lloyd Goodrich at the Whitney Museum who were administrators of the PWAP (neither were very enthusiastic about abstract art). (BA221)

According to Nouritza Matossian in Black Angel: A Life of Arshile Gorky (London: Chatto & Windus, 1998), word had spread that immigrants were being dropped from the program prior to Gork's dismissal.

To help support himself, Gorky gave classes twice a week for 50 cents an hour. Clement Greenberg heard from other artists that Gorky was "damn poor" and that "Sydney Janis bought paintings from him ten bucks a drop. He sold pictures for five, ten, fifteen dollars. Small ones it's true." (BA222)

May 1934: Mark Rothko begins exhibiting at Robert Godsoe's Uptown Gallery.

Mark Rothko's work was included in three group exhibitions during the spring and summer. (RO98) Rothko's Sculptress, featuring his wife Edith as the model, was first shown at the May 1934 exhibition.

Pre-Summer 1934: Arshile Gorky marries Marny George.

Gorky met Marny at the opening of the "First Municipal Art Exhibition" at the Forum Gallery in the RCA Building on February 28, 1934. They were introduced by Gorky's friend and patron, Bernard Davis and his wife Irmagard. Marny was ten years younger than Gorky and had arrived in New York (from Seattle) in 1933 to study fashion art. To support herself she worked as a model in a department store. (HH230/BA546)

Mischa (Misha) Reznikoff:

"This Marny was a typical happy tappy girl. I thought to myself, Ah ha! This is wrong! What fascinated him about her? She looked exactly like that period of Picasso when he had taken off the walls of Popmpeii, women with big rubbery looking fingers and all blown up classical faces. I'm positive that's why he fell in love with her. She had a big handsome figure. Tall and voluptuous." (BA232)

Marny later gave the reasons why she had been attracted to Gorky: "From the first, I was attracted and repelled. I had rushes of passionate feeling. I wanted to be a buffer between this strange lonely man and the indifferent materialist world." (BA232) Gorky would later explain his attraction to Marny to his friend Helen Sandow: "She reminds me of my mother." (BA234)

One night when Gorky and Marny were having dinner with Misha Reznikoff [aka Mischa Resnikov] at Ticino's, Marny wrote on a breadstick "I would like to be Mrs. Gorky." Not long after, Gorky proposed to her as they were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. She accepted. They were later married at City Hall with Sidney Janis and his wife as witnesses who took the newlyweds out for a champagne breakfast afterward. (BA233)

Prior to the wedding a party was planned at Gorky's studio with Misha and Stuart Davis arranging for the bootleg alcohol as prohibition was in force at the time. They also scoured the East Side for fruit and vegetables - "anything to squeeze into the alcohol" Reznikov later recalled. Gorky and his young wife became increasingly inebriated during the party. According to Reznikov "He [Gorky] was raving. How beautiful she is! How fertile she'll be through these vegetables. He made a speech. The girl got loaded in no time... We drank this bloody alcohol. She started playing around with Stuart [Davis], not too obvious..." Gorky, disturbed by Marny's behaviour, stood up and announced: "I cannot permit my wife to be a bathtub gin drinker!" The party soon ended. (BA233)

After a honeymoon in Philadelphia visiting Gorky's friend, Bernard Davis, Arshile and Marny returned to Gorky's studio in New York. Things went downhill from there:

Marny George:

"It seems the very moment we were married the battle began. Arshile tried to break the barriers, first with tenderness, then with force. But barriers grew in direct relation to the violence. It was a tragedy for us both. We loved and hated with equal violence." (BA234)

One morning, while she was still asleep, a letter arrived for her with a fake return address. Gorky read it. It was from someone asking her why she had married so suddenly. Gorky packed her clothes into suitcases, dumped them outside the door and woke her up, telling her to get out. She left. Gorky's friend Saul Schary gave him a hard time for getting involved with the girl at all: "Gorky, why the hell do you marry a girl like that for? Why don't you get a nice Armenian girl who'll love you and take care of you? you shouldn't marry these American girls." (BA235)

Gorky looked into getting a divorce and discovered that Marny was actually a minor. The marriage was annulled. (BA234)

June 1934: Franz Kline meets illustrator John Richard Flanagan. Nutsy gets tattooed.

John Richard Flanagan illustrated Sax Rohmer's "Fu Manchu" stories for Collier's, Cosmopolitan and various other magazines. Flanagan encouraged Kline to have a career as a commercial artist and gave him two pen and ink drawings. Klein's girlfriend Martha ("Nutsy") Kinney had "Franz J. Kline" tattooed on her chest around this time on a trip to Allentown.

Kline supported himself during this time by taking odd jobs such as doing the lettering on the window of a doctor's office overlooking Boston Common. Frederick Ryan, a fellow art student he had met in the autumn of 1931, helped him with the gold leaf which he had never used before. Kline was paid $15 for the job. (FK176)

Summer 1934: Philip Guston and Reuben Kadish do murals in Mexico.

The Struggle Against War and Fascism (Morelia, Mexico, 1935) - L to r: Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish and "their writer friend" Jules Langsner
(Photographer unknown. Collection Skip Kadish, nephew of Reuben Kadish)

Philip Guston and Reuben Kadish originally wanted to go to Italy but after finding out how expensive it was, decided to go to Mexico instead. Reuben had previously worked for the Mexican Social Realist muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros when Siqueiros was in the U.S. so he wrote to him in Mexico asking if there was a wall they could work on. Siqueiros wrote back telling him to come, that he would find something. Kadish later recalled "Philip quit his job and bought a Ford coupé for twenty-three dollars and I cashed in a life insurance policy. We also took along Jules Langsner, the poet, who had no money." When they got to Mexico City, they found that Siqueiros and Diego Rivera had already persuaded the University to offer a huge wall in Maximilian's former summer palace in Morelia, now a museum. "We'd already wrecked the car," Kadish recalls, "so we sent Phil to see the rector of the museum and two days later we got a telegram to come." (DA30)

Prior to arriving in Morelia, Philip, Reuben and Jules did a bit of sightseeing. Philip wasn't very impressed. In a letter to Harold Lehman from Mexico City on July 14, 1934 he wrote of his disappointment with the "much heralded Mexican Renaissance." He disliked the work of Diego Rivera and he characterized Orozco as "an expressionist" who was "dominated by emotion" adding "but at least is plastic now and then." (DA31) He seemed more impressed by the rector of the museum who, he wrote, "runs the town culturally, is an art patron, the image of Lenin, and wants to make his city a modern Florence!" (DA31)

The 40 foot high fresco they painted in Morelia was titled The Struggle Against War and Fascism. The mural was started in the summer of 1934 and finished in January 1935 (Email, Skip Kadish, November 18, 2016). About half of the mural was completed by October 4 and then in November they went to Mexico City for the inauguration of the President before returning to Morelia to complete it. (DA32)

While in Mexico Guston also managed to do woodcuts and linoleum cuts for small magazines and some commissioned portraits, including a six foot portrait of the head of Manuel Moreno Sanchez, a Supreme Court judge who sponsored a small poetry magazine. After finishing The Struggle Against War and Fascism they returned to California and Guston and Kadish worked together on a mural in Duarte for the Treasury Department. (DA32) (The City of Hope, Duarte mural by Guston and Kadish was restored and re-dedicated in 1998.)

Summer 1934: Willem De Kooning goes to Woodstock (again).

De Kooning spent the summer season in Woodstock again - only this time he was accompanied by Juliet Browner instead of Nini Diaz. De Kooning had rented a home for the summer there in 1930 with Nini. After he and Juliet arrived in Woodstock de Kooning wrote to Nini and invited her to stay as well. She did. Although de Kooning returned to New York in August, Nini and Juliet stayed on in Woodstock until the winter. "I was very much taken with the little Juliet" Nini would later comment.

From de Kooning: An American Master

"Not surprisingly, de Kooning's menage a trois did not go unnoticed. Most of his circle was astonished, particularly when Marie Marchowsky and a friend hitchhiked up to Woodstock at de Kooning's request and also moved in for a while. Shrugging their shoulders, however, de Kooning's friends merely said of the odd arrangement "That's Bill. If anyone can make it work, he will." (DK118)

When Bill returned to New York he temporarily lived at 40 Union Square, near Arshile Gorky's studio, in architect Mac Vogel's apartment. When Juliet returned from Woodstock he moved with her to 145 West 21st Street and then, a few weeks later, to a loft next door at 145 West 23rd St. Although Nini did not live with them, de Kooning remained in touch with her. (DK119)

Summer 1934: Arshile Gorky camps out on his sister's porch in Watertown.

According to one of Akabi's lodgers, Gorky "used to come down every summer and paint for a month, then he used to go back to New York... He was a common man." Gorky would entertain his family and friends in Watertown with impersonations of New York art events. Around this time word reached Gorky and Akabi that their sister Vartoosh and her husband Moorad wanted to return to America. The forced collectivisation of the Soviet rule of Armenia had resulted in dire consequences, with severe food shortages. (BA224)

Summer 1934: Clyfford Still attends the Yaddo arts colony. (RO225)
c. August 1934: Jackson Pollock visits the Bentons on Martha's Vineyard.

The Bentons' summer home was a beach house located in Chilmark, Massachusetts on the western edge of Martha's Vineyard. Pollock first visited there after he and his brother Charles drove to L.A. (in an old Model T Ford) to see their mother. It was the fourth cross-country trip that Jackson had made during the past five years. (PP317)

Thomas Hart Benton and his wife told Jackson he could use the chicken coop on their property as a studio and makeshift apartment if he was willing to fix it up. Jackson and Thomas Hart Benton went to work on the coop and it became known as "Jack's Shack." Pollock would spend summer there for the next three years. Benton later recalled, "I am inclined to believe that he was happier during his Martha's Vineyard visits than in any other time in his life. Contented maybe is a better word." (JP70)

Jackson Pollock's Martha Vineyard paintings include Seascape (1934) and T.P. Boat's in Menemsha Pond ("T.P." was Benton's son).

(Note: According to the Pollock chronology by Levine/Indych published in Varnedoe/Kamel, Jackson Pollock (NY: The Museum of Modern Art, 1998) the visit took place in late Spring. According to Deborah Solomon's biography of Jackson Pollock, first published in 1987, the visit occured in August 1934.)

September 1934: Jackson Pollock moves to 76 West Houston Street.

When Pollock returned from Martha's Vineyard he moved out of the 8th Street apartment he shared with his brother Charles into a small unheated apartment above a lumberyard, sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Pollock found work as a janitor (for $10 a week) at the same school that Charles worked for - the City and Country School in Greenwich Village. The school had been founded by Caroline Pratt who, along with her life-tme partner Helen Marot (a teacher at the school), would remain friends with Pollock after he left the school. When Marot died in 1940 Jackson was devastated. (JP71-2/PP317-8)

October 1934: The Section of Painting and Sculpture is launched.

The Section of Painting and Sculpture, later known as the Section of Fine Arts, was launched by the U.S. government as a work relief program, and was headed by businessman turned artist Edward Bruce whose idea was to hire the best artists regardless of their financial situation. Over a thousand murals were commissioned through the Section of Fine Arts and the Public Works of Art Project. (A Presidential commission had reported in 1933, "For the overwhelming majority of the American people the fine arts of painting and sculpture, in their non-commercial, non-industrial forms, do not exist.") (DK123)

October 1934: Sande Pollock moves in with Jackson Pollock.

Sande hitchhiked to New York from California, arriving with "34 cents in my pocket, and California clothes - not even an overcoat," and hoped to follow Jackson and Charles' footsteps and become an artist. Without a job he would accompany Jackson on his janitor duties, helping him out. The janitor job earned Pollock $10 a week and they also managed to get on Home Relief. (JP72)

October 27, 1934: Artists march on City Hall.

Arshile Gorky was one of 300 artists who marched, demanding a place to show their work. For the march, Gorky and his friend George McNeil built a float consisting of a large tower held together with wires.

Stuart Davis:

"Gorky had a great big thing made out of pressed wood - what do you call this stuff? Wall board, isn't it? It was a huge thing - you know, like a certain kind of flat sculpture, cubist sculpture, that was in vogue in those days, and when they came to get it out, of course, it was too big... They took the window out in the back... and they finally had to take it all apart and put it back together again out in the street. It was a big, heavy thing. It took four men to carry it." (HH235)

Although the march had no immediate effect, the New York Federal Project Gallery would open the following year, on December 27, 1935, and the Municipal Art Gallery on January 7, 1936 - both of which would show WPA sponsored work. (Arshile Gorky's designs for an aviation mural were shown at the inaugural exhibition of the New York Federal Project Gallery.)

November 1934: First issue of Art Front is published.

Art Front was published from November 1934 to December 1937. It was designated "Official Publication of the Artists' Union" beginning with the April 1935 issue. Both Stuart Davis (who was at one point the editor of the magazine) and Harold Rosenberg contributed articles to it.

The magazine favoured art of the Social Realist variety. On March 3, 1938 Adolph Gottlieb wrote to Harold Baumbach, "I thought the Union policy was to adopt no aesthetic platform. Yet as a Union organ the Art Front seems to reproduce only a certain type of painting, that with a so-called social slant." (AG27n41) (Gottlieb was writing from the Arizona desert where he and his wife had moved in December 1937. As he wrote about Art Front in the present tense, he was presumably unaware that the December issue was the last issue.)

see Art Front

November 21 - December 10, 1934: "Dali" exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. (MA300)

After attending the exhibition, Balcomb Greene asked Arshile Gorky, "how can you see this commercial trash?" Gorky replied, "If a man can give you one image becoming another, that takes a lot of plastic ability." (BA211)

c. December 1934 - January 1935: Jackson Pollock's drips are shown at the Ferargil Gallery.

The Ferargil Gallery was Thomas Hart Benton's dealer. Benton's wife Rita persuaded the owner of the gallery to let her hold a Christmas exhibit in the basement for unknown, struggling artists. Thomas suggested to Pollock that he decorate some plates and bowls as plates were easier to sell than paintings and exhibit them in the show. On one of the plates he dripped and splattered paint - probably the first instance of Jackson's "drips." The plates and bowls were exhibited at the gallery and all of them sold. Benton's wife bought them. (JP74)

Winter 1934 - Early 1935: Mark Rothko and wife live at 724 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn.

Mark Rothko and Edith lived at the Nostrand Avenue address for approximately 6 months, having moved there from 100 Park Place. Rothko's family also had a connection to Nostrand Avenue. 611 Nostrand Avenue was listed as the family's residential address in the Brooklyn city directory for 1933-34. It was also listed as their business address in the Brooklyn phone books from winter 1934-5 until 1939-40. (RO578n8)

December 24, 1934: Arshile Gorky's sister Vartoosh and her husband Moorad return to New York.

Vartoosh and Moorad returned to America after becoming disenchanted with Soviet-ruled Armenia. When they had first moved back to Armenia they had sent letters home boasting about how great the new Armenia was. Their cousin Ado had risen up in the ranks of the Communist Party and had been made an aid to Aghassi Khanjian, first secretary of the Central Committee. He had gone to work in Moscow in 1934. Another cousin, Azad, had found employment setting up power stations. Vartoosh and Moorad had been sent to university for indoctrination in Marxism and Leninism. Gorky was shocked by their stories of repression and suppression of writers and artists. Although they had previously worked at Hood Rubber, Vartoosh and Moorad were reluctant to ask for their old jobs back after they returned to the U.S. because they were afraid of being labeled subversive, having previously left for a Communist controlled country. Further complicating matters was the fact that Vartoosh had become pregnant in Armenia. Gorky and his other relatives were astonished. During their previous stay in the U.S. Vartoosh had tried to become pregnant by Moorad without success.

Azad [Gorky's cousin]:

"Vartoosh came to Armenia to get pregnant. Moorad could not give her a child. She met a childhood sweetheart from Van. That's when she became pregnant. I got such a shock when I saw Karlen the first time! So tall and handsome. The living image of that man. I saw him not long ago in Yerevan, still a good-looking man, still tall, a real Vanetzi." (BA237)

End 1934: The Gallery Secession opens.

The gallery owner Robert Godsoe had previously run the Uptown gallery. When he moved downtown (to West 12th Street) he used a new name for his gallery - the Gallery Secession. According to Joseph Solman, "for a time the gallery acted as an informal and amiable cooperative. Artists who had not known each other before then met, exchanged ideas, and became acquainted with each other's work." (RO100)

According to Jack Kufeld who would become one of The Ten, Godsoe "occasionally used the Uptown gallery" but owned the Secession.

Jack Kufeld:

"He [Godsoe] lived with a fellow by the name of Chester Knox. Knox, Knox.Chester Euwis was his real name. He called himself Knox. He used to sing. And they both shared that place. And it had this huge floor below and it was sort of a duplex. Upstairs where were bedrooms and a kitchen and bath. It made an ideal gallery because of the big space below. I don't know why he used the Uptown Gallery. It was run by a woman. It was a club, uptown. It was the Uptown Club, run by Rosa Kursin... He [Godsoe] was a writer and a good writer. As a matter of fact, as I recall, I think the Partisan Review... published a segment of a book he had written .They were going to do the rest of it, and then is when they went out of business. A pretty interesting writer, but he was a Surrealist. (JK)

to 1935

to 1933

Abstract Expressionism

Ab Ex Contents

Ab Ex Essays