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Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia

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Artist: Arshile Gorky
Date: 1933 - 1934
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 91.44 x 121.92 cm
Event: Armenian Genocide
Motif: Collapsing Space  

For the first four years of the 1930s, Gorky worked on the 13 pen and ink, pencil, and oil on canvas works that comprise the series Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia. In each work, the artist develops and redefines certain forms, using the same compositional framework. In each, the suggestion of a platform is made by a diagonal line in the lower right that recedes to the horizontal line in the back. On this platform, a still life composed of abstract, organic forms rests (or floats). These are bulbous, curvilinear shapes as well as a few angular structures that occur in similar form and position in each panel of the series. As the series progressed, Gorky varied their presentation by experimenting with their size, shape, and definition. Neither these forms, nor the words Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia themselves make explicit, direct references to a specific subject. This intentional ambiguity through suggestive, evocative wording and imagery reflects Gorky's growing affinity at this point with the Surrealist movement. Obviously intended to recall emotions and memories, perhaps of past distress, the large number of works produced on this theme and the amount of time spent indicate that Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia was especially important to Gorky.

Credits: © 2001 Estate of Arshile Gorky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.