Arshile Gorky’s Art of Bliss Remembered

Some artists you enormously admire. Others you admire and enormously love. For many people, Arshile Gorky is a loved one. And much of what makes him cherishable can be distilled in “Ardent Aspect: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943-47,” an exhibition as manic and tender as a Schubert track routine, at Hauser & Wirth’s Upper East Side space.

Organized by Saskia Spender, among the artist’s several granddaughters and president of the Arshile Gorky Basis, it’s a sizable exhibition: more than 30 paintings and drawings, in loan coming from museums and private collections, installed on three gallery floors. But its time frame, roughly four years, is limited. It coincides with the start of the artist’s most fully developed work, ends a calendar year before his death, and spans a few of the happiest and saddest days of his short life.

That life was rarely easy. Gorky was born Vosdanik Adoian, around 1902 (the precise year can be unclear) on the shores of Lake Van, in mountainous rural Armenia nearby the Turkish border. And for a brief time, in the wonder of that natural placing, in the closeness of his friends and family, he experienced bliss.

As an adult he recalled that close to “our residence on the path to the spring, my dad had a little yard with a few apple trees which had retired from supplying fruit. There was a ground frequently giving color where grew incalculable levels of wild carrots, and porcupines had made their nest. There was a blue rock fifty percent buried in the dark-colored earth with a few patterns occasionally like fallen clouds.” He remembered a “Holy Tree.” He remembered “the sh-h-h-sh-h of silver leaves of the poplars.”

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