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Recent Acquisitions: April Gornik, Untitled (Desert Vista), 1980

April Gornik, Untitled (Desert Vista), 1980

April Gornik, Untitled (Desert Vista), 1980, oil on canvas. Gift of The Foundation. To-Life, Inc.; 2012.53.

Hood Quarterly, winter 2013

April Gornik (American, born 1953) is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential painters working today. She is best known for her monumental landscape paintings, which are fictional evocations of nature rather than imitations of the natural world. In a recent interview with Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum of Art, Gornik described Untitled (Desert Vista) as “a seminal painting for me.” Growing up in Cleveland, she had never experienced a desert landscape before visiting Arizona with her husband and fellow artist, Eric Fischl, on a road trip in 1980. She was struck by “the mute beauty of the desert” and stunned by its epic grandeur. Until this point, Gornik had never attempted a painting on this scale and Untitled (Desert Vista) is now listed as the first work in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. The painting was made from photographs taken on the spot, as well as sketchbook drawings, and then completed in her New York studio. Gornik was struck by the “emerging clarity” and “paradisical nature” of the work as it began to take shape in her studio, where she reworked from memory the emptiness and vastness of the desert landscape. She recalled her struggle to convey the immensity and incredible natural beauty of the Arizona desert without falling into the Manifest destiny narratives of earlier American landscape painting, wanting instead for her work to feel both contemporary and timeless at the same time. Painting for Gornik is “a wonderful artifice” and Untitled (Desert Vista) initiated a long series of luminous, mysterious, and profoundly expressive landscapes that cemented her reputation as one of the most highly regarded painters of her generation. The Hood Museum of Art has a number of large-scale paintings by modern and contemporary artists such as Mark Rothko, Ed Ruscha, Sean Scully, and Frank Stella. However, works on this scale by women artists are few and far between, so the gift of this important painting by an internationally recognized woman artist represents a crucial addition to the permanent collection.

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