LOS ANGELES, CA.- Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) is widely regarded as one of the most pivotal and significant artists in the development of 20th century American art. After moving to America from Armenia in 1920, he quickly became a lightning rod for other artists in the late 1920s and early 30s, sparking the genesis what was to become the "New York School" and setting the course of modern art in America.
Now, in a ground-breaking exhibition entitled Arshile Gorky - The Early Years, and with a 96-page catalogue of the same name, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in Los Angeles is showing 66 rare works by Gorky from a private collection, most previously unexhibited. This exhibition is thought to be the largest exhibit of Gorkys works ever presented outside of a museum, and breaks new ground in addressing Gorkys earliest stylistic development.
"Arshile Gorky -The Early Years" offers new references and insights into this legendary artist during his seminal period as he explored the avant garde sensibilities of the time. As Melvin P. Lader (widely regarded as the eminent scholar on the work of Arshile Gorky and author of numerous books on Gorky and abstract expressionism) notes in this exhibition catalogues text: "As a group, the drawings and paintings mirror Gorkys stylistic evolution, up to the point in the late 1930s when he began to truly digest and synthesize so many of his early influences on the verge of finding his own unique language and style. Examples of his absorption of Analytic Cubism, Synthetic Cubism, and aspects of Surrealism are plentiful among these works . . . and they offer us the rare opportunity to view a good number . . . from a very fertile period of his artistic career."
As Donald Kuspit notes in his 1998 essay Arshile Gorky in the Thirties: "Gorky began his self-analysis in the drawings and painting of the thirties . . . already beginning to move beyond [modernist elders] ideas . . .in the thirties still lifes [which are] surrealized and abstractified versions of Cezannes still lifes." Indeed, Kuspit says "we see the beginning of this pure, autonomous, highly fluid, unpredictable line . . . which begins in nature and ends in pure expression - as abstract expression."
That this exhibition was even possible is due to the long-standing friendship between Gorky and the Swiss-born American artist Hans Burkhardt (1904-1994), who shared a studio with Gorky in New York for many years, and acquired a formidable collection of Gorkys early works.
As Lader observes: "Among them were Gorkys small Cezannean landscape Staten Island and an equally significant early Self Portrait, both of which are key pieces in understanding Gorkys early absorption of modern influences" and the "Burkhardt collection Gorky drawings provides a rather unique opportunity to see the artists art and ideas evolve within an important period of his artistic transformation. Drawings, by their very nature, register the artists first impulses in creating a work. As such, they can often be of enormous value in understanding how an artist thinks and in tracing the various stages through which his art has progressed."
Arshile Gorky: The Early Years is currently exhibited at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts gallery, 357 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, through February, 2005. The exhibition is accompanied by a 96-page text with 103 color illustrations ($25 through the gallery); essay by Dr. Lader, who co-curated the recent major retrospective of Gorky drawings at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York and the Menil Collection in Houston. Gallery hours are Tuesday - Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 to 5:00 pm or by appointment.
An educational program will be held on Friday evening, January 28, when the distinguished art critic and art historian, Donald Kuspit will give a gallery talk on Arshile Gorky and this important exhibition.