By Holland Cotter
NEW YORK (New York Times) — 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 is distilled in “Ardent Nature: Arshile Gorky Landscapes, 1943-47,” an exhibition as manic and tender as a Schubert song cycle, at Hauser & Wirth’s Upper East Side space.
Organized by Saskia Spender, one of the artist’s two granddaughters and president of the Arshile Gorky Foundation, it’s a large exhibition: more than 30 paintings and drawings, on loan from museums and private collections, installed on three gallery floors. Yet its time frame, roughly four years, is tight. It coincides with the beginning of the artist’s most fully developed work, ends a year before his death, and spans some of the happiest and saddest days of his short life.
That life was rarely easy. Gorky was born Vosdanik Adoian, around 1902 (the exact year is unclear) on the shores of Lake Van, in mountainous rural Armenia near the Turkish border. And for a brief time, in the beauty of that natural setting, in the closeness of his family, he experienced bliss.
As an adult, he recalled that close to “our house on the road to the spring, my father had a little garden with a few apple trees which had retired from giving fruit. There was a ground constantly giving shade where grew incalculable amounts of wild carrots, and porcupines had made their nest. There was a blue rock half buried in the black earth with a few patterns here and there like fallen clouds.” He remembered a “Holy Tree.” He remembered “the sh-h-h-sh-h of silver leaves of the poplars.”