Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot physically see with his eyes… Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an explosion into unknown areas.
Arshile Gorky’s diverse body of work was crucial to the emergence of Abstract Expressionism. He adopted the biomorphic forms of the Surrealist painters, but further freed those forms through the process of painting itself by emphasizing more lyrical color and personal content. By means of his unique approach to color and form, he was able to communicate to the viewer the painful childhood experiences of the Armenian Genocide as well as the pleasant and nostalgic sentiments he felt toward his lost homeland. His work is also significant because it so directly reflects the cultural and historical milieu of New York in the 1940s, where avant-garde artists from both the United States and Europe converged, and of the postwar period in general, when existentialist philosophy prevailed. This philosophy proclaimed the absurdity of life at the same time as it called upon humans to take responsibility for creating their own meaning – which Gorky did by creating beauty out of personal tragedy.
‘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. 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.
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.