By Edmond Y. Azadian
Komitas is celebrated as an ethno-musicologist and founder of modern Armenian music. Like the time demarcation of BC and AD, there is a defining line in Armenian music cutting across like a watershed: the body of music created before and after Komitas.
Additionally, Komitas has become the symbol, or the icon, if you will, of the Armenian Genocide for the Armenians. His statues, from Yerevan to Paris and from Montreal to Detroit, symbolize the Armenian Genocide.
In recent years, the artist Arshile Gorky (Vosdanig Manoog Adoian) has also emerged as the icon for the Armenian Genocide, not necessarily for any particular historic reference, but for the inadvertent controversy created about the traumatic experiences in the artist’s life, which shaped his worldview and propelled him onto the world arena.
Currently an exhibition on American Abstract Expressionism, focusing on Gorky as the dominant figure, has touched off a firestorm in the media, because the curator and the director of the Tate Gallery in London, in addition to delivering what pertains to their expertise, have chosen to redefine history, in reference to Gorky’s life, and have ranked themselves with the Genocide denialists’ camp.
But before coming to the Tate controversy, it is amazing to watch Arshile Gorky’s spectacular ascendance as an artist and the leader of American Abstract Expressionist movement. For many years, when reference was made to that movement in any book or art magazine, Gorky’s name was either mentioned last, or was never mentioned. Ironically, Mark Rothko, who was Gorky’s student, held a central place in all writings. But recent years have marked a new realignment in evaluating the luminaries of that
movement and Gorky has found his true place as the most influential of artists in the group.