Arshile Gorky was born an ethnic Armenian in Ottoman Anatolia in c.1904. Fleeing the genocide that claimed the life of his mother, he emigrated to the United States as a child refugee in 1920. After five years with relatives in Massachusetts, Gorky moved to New York City and changed his name alluding to the celebrated Russian poet. Refusing all categories, whether ethnic, political, or artistic, as necessarily reductive, Gorky forsook assimilation in favor of celebrating his individuality, becoming a central figure of the cultural milieu of a city on the brink of a new Modernism.
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