Date of birth:
November 26, 1929
Gregory Masurovsky at
Black Mountain College. Phr: Felix Krowinski. © BMC Project.
Drawings by Masurovsky
Masurovsky Web Site
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.
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
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.