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Gregory Masurovsky    


Date of birth:
November 26, 1929


1946-47 spring

Gregory Masurovsky at Black Mountain College. Phr: Felix Krowinski. © BMC Project.


Drawings by Masurovsky



Masurovsky Web Site

Artemsia Gallery


Gregory Masurovsky was born in a black neighborhood in the Bronx a month after the beginning of the Great Depression in the United States. He lived there with his family in a building owned by his maternal grandparents until they lost it when tenants, whom they did not evict, could not pay rent. He recalled that as a small child he thought everyone was black except for his family and the Italian iceman. When the economy improved, the family moved to other parts of the Bronx, as landlords were then offering the first three months rent free to attract tenants. Every three years or so, he found himself in a new school and neighborhood, an uprooting experience which ended with the onset of World War II.

After graduating from P.S. 86 in the Bronx, he was accepted at the High School of Music & Art where his older brother, Disraeli, a gifted young artist, had been a student. It was he who had told Gregory about Black Mountain College as he had thought to go there himself. It was a dream that ended with Disraeli’s sudden death at the age of twenty, a tragedy that deeply affected the family and especially Gregory who had relied on his support and guidance.

After studying briefly at the Art Students League and Parsons School of Design, Gregory applied for admission to Black Mountain College in the fall of 1946. At the time the college was experiencing a post-war boom, and Gregory, only seventeen, found himself among G.I.s who were not only older, but who had been marked by their war experiences. He was accepted as a "kid brother" and became close friends with Knute Stiles, Stanley Hebel, Gus Falk, and Leo Krikorian, who were older, as well as with Dick Negro and Jerry Levy, students his own age.

When Gregory arrived, Josef Albers was on a sabbatical so he enrolled in Ilya Bolotowsky's art classes. He appreciated the fact that Bolotowsky, a neoplasticist in the Mondrian tradition, did not impose any particular theory of art, but rather encouraged the students to work in many styles so as to discover their own vision: "He made us aware of what was going on in an image, We were learning a visual language." Both Bolotowsky and Will Barnet, with whom he later studied at the Art Students League, combined informality with rigor in their teaching and criticism.

When Albers returned, Gregory sat in on a few of his classes but found he disliked his more authoritarian approach and did not continue. He joined the carpentry crew – learning "on the job" –, took psychodrama with John Wallen, and studied economics with Karl Niebyl. In M.C. Richards’s poetry class, which he especially enjoyed, he discovered e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot and many others through recordings, readings and discussions of the broader cultural contexts in which the poems were written.

Gregory left Black Mountain at the end of the 1948 spring semester when Bolotowsky left. He joined the army and after his discharge returned to New York where he became class monitor in Will Barnet's graphics class and further developed his techniques in lithography and etching. He was recalled in the army during the Korean War and as a medic stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington took care of the wounded. Upon discharge, he went to live with his mother in Sarasota, Florida, He found work with the Ringling Bros. Circus making props and floats for the grand opening in Madison Square Garden. He then returned to New York to become, once again, the class monitor for Will Barnet, having learned that it was in the graphic arts his strengths lay. He recalled that Shirley Goldfarb, who had been promised the class monitor position and whom he was later to marry, "was mad as a hatter" on their first stormy meeting: "It was a passionate beginning". They decided that they really liked each other and in 1953 were married in City Hall, New York. A year later, May 1954, the Masurovskys decided on a whim to use their meager savings for a visit to Paris. Their first night was spent talking to other artists in the cafes of Montparnasse. Early morning, they walked through the Luxembourg Gardens and knew that Paris would become their home. Using his remaining G.I. Bill, Gregory took classes at the Sorbonne to learn French, and the Masurovskys settled into a small studio on the rue Liancourt. Their son, Marc Jean, was born in the American Hospital in 1956.

Gregory developed a personal drawing technique using a vocabulary of line and small marks to reveal forms, as opposed to line as contour and shading. In 1956, he was introduced to the French writer, Michel Butor, with whom he was later to collaborate on a series of books and print/manuscripts, exploring the encounter of texts and images. In 2004, the Museum of Pontoise exhibited a retrospective of their forty years of collaborated works, accompanied by a catalogue raisonné, "La Plume et le Crayon."

In 1995, Gregory enrolled in a typography class where he learned to handset lead type. He began printing a collection of books of his writings and those of others under the logo "Editions Liancourt". He had edited the journals of his wife, who had died in 1980, in French translation, published as "Carnets–Montparnasse 1971-1980".

Gregory has taught drawing at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design in1966-1967 and at the American Center in Paris from 1980-1987, as well as other art schools in Europe. He was artist-in-residence at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1969. He has also made several short films on his art.
Gregory currently lives in Paris with his companion, Antide C, de Labriolle, a portrait and landscape painter. He continues to draw, to write and to publish.

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