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  • The Stuff of Thought: A Talk on Arshile Gorky’s “Image in Khorkom”

    Image in Khokorm by Arshile Gorky
    Image in Khokorm, c. 1938–1939. Oil on canvas.
    Painting by Arshile Gorky

    “My recollections of Armenia open new visions for me. My art is therefore a growth art where forms, pines, shapes, memories of Armenia germinate, breathe, expand and contract, multiply and thereby create new paths for exploration.” —Arshile Gorky

    Born Vostanik Manoug Adoian in the village of Khokorm near Lake Van in the Ottoman Empire, Arshile Gorky (c. 1902–1948) was one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century. Gorky, often paralleled with Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, heavily influenced abstract expressionism. The land of his birth—as well as the loss and suffering experienced in it—found its way into an extraordinary body of work. One such painting, Image in ​Khorkom​, is currently on view ​at ​The Kreeger Museum in Washington, D.C.

    The Kreeger, an art museum located in the former residence of David Lloyd Kreeger and Carmen Kreeger, houses a collection of modern and contemporary art, as well as outstanding examples of traditional art from west and central Africa and Asia. The building, designed by Philip Johnson, sits on five acres and includes a Sculpture Garden, Sculpture Terrace and sculpture-filled woods.

    Gorky’s work will be spotlighted during a special gallery talk on Saturday, June 23, at 2 p.m. The discussion will be led by Irene Abrahamian, an Armenian American who was raised in Iran before immigrating to the United States. This event, possible through a partnership between the Kreeger Museum and the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, provides the unique opportunity to delve deeper into Gorky’s story and the background of Image in ​Khorkom. Additionally, composer, pianist, and vocalist Levon Mikaelian will share a short program of pieces inspired by the painting.

    “I feel a special bond to this painting and Gorky himself,” Abrahamian explains. “Like Gorky, I am an Armenian familiar with the history and culture of our land. The tragic history associated with Gorky’s childhood and this painting particularly deeply touch my heart.”

    The free 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival takes place June 27 to July 1 and July 4 to 8 on the National Mall between 12th and 14th streets. This year’s event features the cultural traditions of Armenia and Catalonia. Visitors can participate in craft activities, enjoy music and dance performances, shop in the Marketplace, try food and wine from both regions, and much more.

    Rachel Barton is a media intern at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She is a rising senior at Rowan University, double majoring in English and Writing Arts.

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