It has been a long time ago now, but one of my favorite art exhibits has to be the show I saw at the Smithsonian featuring the work of Arshile Gorky. I’ve always been drawn to Abstract Expressionism. I especially like seeing work from when the artistic movement was young, the ideas were still developing, and artists hadn’t completely dropped figurative elements from their work. Gorky was probably one of the most influential artists on Abstract Expressionism’s early development, helping surrealist concepts evolve and develop into something brand new.
The idea of an artist as some tragic character can be a boring and played out stereotype because life is tough for everybody. But Gorky did have his fair share of troubles. When he was just a kid, Gorky’s father abandoned his family and went to America. During the Armenian genocide Arshile’s mother fled with him and the rest of his family to Russia, where she died a couple years later of starvation. Gorky made his way to America where, later in life, he fought cancer, broke his neck which temporarily paralyzed the arm he painted with, and had his studio burn to the ground at the height of his career.
The exhibit was at the Hirshorn Museum in some weird and out of the way side gallery. I say weird because the floor was uneven, made up of a bunch of big boxes and platforms that you had to climb and descend in order to see the different pieces. Actually, that part of it wasn’t that cool, but it wasn’t a big deal either.
What was cool was the artwork on display. I really just stumbled across the exhibit, and it was completely unexpected. There were were a bunch of drawings and paintings in sequential order on loan from a number of different museums. I could look at this artwork for hours, and I’m sure I did. I had know of Arshile Gorky for some time, and liked his work, but spending time with and really looking at the work influenced and changed my aesthetic for the better. Gorky’s artwork is beautiful, and I came away inspired.