Los Angeles

Arshile Gorky

Art Center In La Jolla

This is the Hans Burkhardt collection of approximately seventy-five items, covering the years 1927–1937, during which Gorky journeyed toward himself by way of Cézanne and the Paris Masters. Later he proceeded to absolute uniqueness, untimely death, and canonization. His biography has caused a ton of fat to be chewed in the journals and has cut too much into the looking time. There is a lot to see in this show; Gorky’s derivations have a yeast of their own. Although he often placed his mind for a while in another painter’s keeping, his hands were intensely and powerfully his own. This shows up most clearly in the Braque-like paintings (there are several here) which have Braque’s thinking all right, but are wonderful to just the degree they aren’t Braque.

Two early paintings, Staten Island, and Self-portrait 1927–28, show Gorky the good student of Cézanne, working in the master’s shop and doing a fine job. But from this point on there is questioning in the respect and finally a kind of equality with the artists that Gorky found interesting. As Stuart Davis said, “a progressive elimination of formulas,” and an increasing injection of the anomaly that every artist can’t help because it’s him. This collection is shy on masterpieces, but it shows a great painter taking his gloves off. An exciting show.

Jon Reuschel