Artworks
The Liver Is the Cock's Comb

Contributor

If you’re thinking that The Liver is the Cock's Comb is really graphic then you're right.

The highly descriptive title of this painting definitely represents the sentiments Gorky is trying to get across. But it’s also wiser and less suggestive than you might think. At first glance it looks like a vibrant, yet confusing Disney cartoon. Take a step closer and you'll realize there are no sweet cartoon characters hitting each other on the head with giant mallets. There are strange and pretty phallic/sexual shapes, sharp things and something that looks remarkably like a hard-boiled egg. This painting was actually inspired by a farm in Virginia owned by his second set of in-laws. Gorky always felt a closeness with nature as an escape from the pain of the Armenian Genocide and the death of his mother. It’s fitting that this painting came towards the end of his career and life because it seems to tie everything together in a neat little bow. It represents his homeland (now Turkey), his immigration into the U.S., his sexual frustration throughout his life and the peace he found in nature

One of Gorky’s contemporaries, Andre Breton, the great Surrealist poet even said that this painting is “one of the most important paintings made in America" and that Gorky was a Surrealist, which was a huge deal because the Surrealists were basically the mean girls of the art world and didn’t let just anyone have lunch with them. 

What The Liver is the Cock’s Comb means exactly is tough to say but cock’s comb (coxcomb) is a conceited man or a jester’s hat so most critics think that the title has to do with the absurdity of vanity (with sexual undertones). This of course is rich combing from Gorky, who spent his entire life trying to convince people that he was someone he was not. But I guess that did make him an expert on the subject. Maybe he gained some clarity towards the end of his shit show of a life. If anyone needed it, it was Gorky. 

Sources

Sources

  1. Matossian, Nouritza. Black Angel, The Life of Arshile Gorky. Overlook Press, NY 2000, pp.352–357
  2. "Full Text Of "Arshile Gorky, 1904-1948 : A Retrospective"". Archive.org. N.p., 2012. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.
  3. "The Liver Is The Cock's Comb". Albrightknox.org. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.
  4. Dorment, Richard. "Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective At Tate Modern, Review". Telegraph.co.uk. N.p., 2010. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.