According to author Joel Whitney (interviewed here by David Pakman), oh yeah they did. And Gabo, a close friend of Fidel Castro, was not impressed:
BTW, the CIA’s lit-mag funding program has been an open secret for some time now. Whitney’s book is not the first or only one dedicated to it. Frances Stonor Saunders wrote the book on the CIA’s “cultural Cold War” back in 1999. She covers not only the publishing angle, but also the weird, bland excursion of the NATO-based art world into “postmodernism”, which was posited as a “sophisticated” Free World answer to the “socialist realism” of the Warsaw Pact countries. The whole Abstract Expressionist “movement” is a CIA baby. It’s as boring as it is baffling, and I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I’ve spent staring at pieces of it, wondering what the whole point of them was, because they said absolutely nothing to me. Did you know you were supposed to be brainwashed into “loving freedom” by that oh-so-expensive yet oh-so-unprepossessing picture composed of nothing more than three discordantly-colored stripes on a big long board that took up a whole wall in some chic gallery? Yeah. You were. But considering how many people questioned the whole premise, much less the business wisdom of spending millions on a single exemplar, I’d say the CIA art experiment was a flat, matte failure. People were more alienated than exhilarated by what they saw. And a whole slew of mediocre artists got a lot more fame than their works merited.
And meanwhile, a whole lot of brilliant authors, of whom Gabo was by far not the only one, got duped into supporting what was, at its base, a propaganda offensive. It’s no surprise that he was devastated when he found out the truth, and angry too. We all should be. Because at the bottom of it all is the inescapable truth that our “artistic freedom” is being nurtured by a clique of chronic, pathological liars who have the power — and the money — to shut out anyone who doesn’t get and stay in line.