Ardent Nature: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943-47
Ardent Nature: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943 – 47, is Hauser & Wirth’s inaugural presentation of works by Arshile Gorky, a seminal figure in the shift to abstraction that transformed twentieth-century American art. On view from November 2 – December 23, 2017, at Hauser & Wirth’s Upper East Side location, 32 East 69th St., New York, NY.
By the early 1940s, Gorky had already begun to liberate himself from artistic convention, forging a powerful, if enigmatic, visual language that built upon the freewheeling lyricism of Surrealism and anticipated the concerns of Abstract Expressionism. His breakthrough came in the summer of 1943, during an extended stay at Crooked Run Farm, the Virginia homestead owned by his wife’s parents. Here, the artist became enchanted by the bucolic surroundings, and his response to the fields, blooms, patterns, and colors around him began to manifest in vibrant compositions. The resulting works from this period, filled with organic forms and infused with extraordinary expressive freedom, are among the most moving of Gorky’s career.
Waterfall, 1942-43, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 44.5 inches
Gorky’s time at Crooked Run Farm marked a profound reawakening of his connection to nature. During his first summer in the countryside in 1943 (he would return for extended stays in 1944 and the summer of 1946), Gorky spent day after day in the open pastures, producing scores of ‘plein air’ drawings. Infatuated with his surroundings, he discovered the complexities of natural forms. The trees, milkweed, haystacks, and brackish river were rife with activity, and served as points of departure for new works. It was here, among the flora and fauna, that Gorky revisited his early experiments with automatic drawing, courting free associations with nature and its endless metamorphoses.
Pastoral, 1947, oil on canvas, 44 x 56.75 inches
Gorky often used his works on paper as studies, shifting configurations and colors before further interpreting a composition on canvas. His process of intense contemplation and refinement rarely left anything to chance, yet the resulting works brimmed with a sense of immediacy and spontaneous energy.
While made at a professional peak, Gorky’s late works are situated within a period of profound personal tragedy. The trauma that colored Gorky’s final years inspired shifts towards a bleaker palette and a more abbreviated line, and his paintings became increasingly enigmatic.
Pastoral, ca. 1947, oil and pencil on canvas, 44.125 x 56 inches
Curated by Saskia Spender, the artist’s granddaughter and President of the Arshile Gorky Foundation, the exhibition features over fifty landscapes – including paintings and works on paper – from this critical time in the artist’s life and work. ‘Ardent Nature’ is the first New York exhibition exclusively dedicated to the artist’s mature works, and presents Gorky at the very height of his artistic powers.
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated hardcover publication, ‘Ardent Nature. Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943 – 47,’ from Hauser & Wirth Publishers. The book features newly commissioned contributions by Saskia Spender and Edith Devaney, Senior Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Visit the gallery’s publications section for details and a link to purchase this 140-page catalog.
To learn more about Ardent Nature: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943-47, visit the Hauser & Wirth website at: https://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/3321/ardent-nature-arshile-gorky-landscapes-1943y47/view/