Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten

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Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten

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Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten
Installation view created in HWVR, ‘Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten’, picturing Whitten’s ‘Quantum Wall, VIII (For Arshile Gorky, My First Love In Painting)’, 2017 and Gorky’s ‘Untitled’, c. 1947–1948. © (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS) / © Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the estates and Hauser & Wirth
Installation view created in HWVR, ‘Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten’, picturing Whitten’s ‘Quantum Wall, VIII (For Arshile Gorky, My First Love In Painting)’, 2017 and Gorky’s ‘Untitled’, c. 1947–1948. © (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS) / © Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the estates and Hauser & Wirth

‘I do not paint in front of, but from within nature’ - Arshile Gorky

Installation view created in HWVR, ‘Arshile Gorky & Jack Whitten’, picturing Gorky’s ‘Virginia Landscape’, c. 1944 and Whitten’s ‘King's Wish (Martin Luther's Dream)’, 1968. © (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS) / © Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the estates and Hauser & Wirth

Both Gorky and Whitten turned to the natural world for solace and inspiration, often employing landscape motifs to express underlying emotions. Gorky spent extended periods of time at Crooked Run Farm in Virginia, becoming enchanted by the bucolic surroundings, and his response began to manifest in his vibrant compositions. The resulting works, including ‘Untitled’ drawings and ‘Virginia Landscape’, are filled with organic forms and infused with extraordinary expressive freedom, marking a profound reawakening of his connection to nature.

Arshile Gorky
Virginia Landscape, c. 1944
Pencil and crayon on paper
47 x 60 cm / 18 1/2 x 23 5/8 inches
© (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Courtesy The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Hauser & Wirth

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Jack Whitten
King's Wish (Martin Luther's Dream), 1968
Oil on canvas
172.4 x 129.7 x 4.5 cm / 67 7/8 x 51 1/8 x 1 3/4 inches
© Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth

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Whitten absorbed the ancient landscapes of Crete; its colors and topographical viewpoints were expressed as elements in his art which he described as ‘structured feelings’. Whitten vividly described the impact on his senses: ‘Memory, both good and bad, is a powerful activator of emotion. The scent of fresh sawed pine logs, fresh sugarcane, mulberries, wild blackberries, huckleberries, plums, watermelons, persimmons, wild grapes and muscadine are all alive and active through sense memory’. In this vein, the exhibition displays Whitten’s ‘Garden in Bessemer VI’ (1968), directly influenced by Gorky’s ‘Garden in Sochi’ (1941).

Arshile Gorky
Pastoral, c. 1947
Oil and pencil on canvas
111.8 x 142.2 cm / 44 x 56 inches
© (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Courtesy The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Hauser & Wirth

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Jack Whitten
Garden in Bessemer VI, 1968
Oil on canvas
109.2 x 201.3 x 5 cm / 43 x 79 1/4 x 2 inches
© Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth

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The central role of Gorky’s draughtsmanship in his practice is exemplified in an early seminal work featured in the exhibition, ‘Untitled (Study for Mural),’ executed in 1933 – 1934. A series of vignettes made up of abstract and figurative shapes and objects, the work is one of only three pen and ink drawings that the artist conceived. Over the course of his career, Whitten ceaselessly worked through a range of styles and techniques, experimenting continuously to arrive at a nuanced language of painting that hovers between mechanical automation and spiritual expression.

Arshile Gorky
Untitled (Study for Mural), 1933-1934
Ink on paper
24.1 x 73.7 cm / 9 1/2 x 29 inches
© (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Courtesy The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Hauser & Wirth

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Jack Whitten
Birth Of An Enigma, 1964
Oil on canvas with burlap collage
127 x 213.4 x 2.5 cm / 50 x 84 x 1 inches
© Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth

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‘A taste of Gorky vis-a-vis Whitten is timely and enticing. Harmonious in many respects, particularly in terms of palette and compositional structure, Gorky and Whitten were artists of many faces and styles. As we continue to appreciate their compositions side by side, we look forward to studying the nuanced consonance between the two artists’ bodies of works. Occupying opposite halves of the 20th century, their kinship tells a compelling story of American art.’ - Saskia Spender, President, and Parker Field, Managing Director, of The Arshile Gorky Foundation

Arshile Gorky
Untitled, c. 1947–1948
Oil on canvas
111.8 x 137.2 cm / 44 x 54 inches
© (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Courtesy The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Hauser & Wirth

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Jack Whitten
Quantum Wall, VIII (For Arshile Gorky, My First Love In Painting), 2017
Acrylic on canvas
122.6 x 122.6 x 6.5 cm / 48 1/4 x 48 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches
© Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth

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‘To be able to see the love and admiration Jack had for Gorky, albeit on a digital screen, is a palpable connection between two artists at different ends of the 20th century. The call-and-response aspect of the paired landscapes almost speaking to one another is quite moving. I think as Jack grew older and dove deeper into his feelings, the beauty and sadness that runs through Gorky’s oeuvre continued to inform Jack’s expression.’ - Mary Whitten

Arshile Gorky
Gray Drawing for Pastoral, c. 1946–1947
Charcoal on paper
128 x 156 cm / 50 3/8 x 61 3/8 inches
© (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS). Courtesy The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Hauser & Wirth

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Jack Whitten
Steel City I, 1973
Acrylic on canvas
152.4 x 181.6 cm / 60 x 71 1/2 inches
© Jack Whitten Estate. Courtesy the Jack Whitten Estate and Hauser & Wirth

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Gorky seated in front of 'Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia' works in his studio at 36 Union Square, ca.1932. Photo: Alexander Sandow, a friend and neighbour © (2019) The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS)

About Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky was born an ethnic Armenian in Ottoman Anatolia in c.1904. Fleeing the genocide that claimed the life of his mother, he emigrated to the United States as a teenage refugee in 1920. After five years with relatives in Massachusetts, Gorky moved to New York and changed his name in honor of the celebrated Russian poet. Refusing all categories, whether artistic or political, as necessarily reductive, Gorky forsook assimilation in favor of celebrating his otherness, becoming a central figure of the cultural milieu of a city on the brink of Modernism.

About Jack Whitten

Born in Bessemer, Alabama in 1939, Jack Whitten is celebrated for his innovative processes of applying paint to the surface of his canvases and transfiguring their material terrains. Although Whitten initially aligned with the New York circle of abstract expressionists active in the 1960s, his work gradually distanced from the movement’s aesthetic philosophy and formal concerns, focusing more intensely on the experimental aspects of process and technique that came to define his practice.

Jack Whitten, Studio, n.d. Photo: Unknown. © Jack Whitten Estate

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