Arshile Gorky and Marc Rothko: Return from exile
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The art of the artists, who emigrated from the territories of the Russian Empire in the early twentieth century, is the subject of this work. This thesis focuses on two of them, who migrated to the United States in 1910s—Arshile Gorky from Armenia and Marc Rothko from Russia. In this work, I contend that the main causes behind their immigrations--whether the Armenian Genocide or Anti-Semitism—left indelible marks on each of their lives. The thesis defines immigration as a chain of tragic, irretrievable losses, beginning with the loss of cultural origins. Both Gorky and Rothko searched for a means to preserve and commemorate the victims of these cataclysmic historic events. In this study, I argue that their paintings reflect the inability to ever fully access their lost origins. In making this claim I do not want to minimize the importance of the role of their respective heritages, one Armenian, the other Jewish, played in their art, but exact the opposite; the inability to recreate the past and the constant wish to grasp it in the present becomes the driving force behind both Arshile Gorky and Mark Rothko's artistic projects. Because of the constant presence of the tragic in both their lives and work, which begins in their homelands and continues when they relocate to the United States, this thesis examines the double function of memory in their paintings as an act of mourning, using Friedrich Nietzsche's theory of tragedy, in The Birth of Tragedy , Jacques Derrida's notions of origin and erasure in Dissemination , and Friedrich Georg Hegel's conception of an ethical order in The Phenomenology of the Spirit .