Skip to main content

Full text of "April Gornik: Embodied Landscapes"

See other formats

/ v^ 

April tGoRNiK 

Embodied Landscapes 


Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 

April Gornik 
Embodied Landscapes 

Selected Paintings 


The University of the Arts 
9 January-6 March, 1998 

Selected Works on Paper 
Museum of American Art of the 
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 

9 jANUARY-19 April, 1998 

Organized by Leah Douglas, Gallery Director 
The University of the Arts 

T b i s e X h i b i t i t2 has been funded b y 

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts 

The Exhibitions Program at The University of the Arts 

The Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 

Lend e r s to the e x bib. 

Paul and Helaine Cantor 

Doris and David Mortman 

Natalie Rea 

Mary Jane M^arcaslano and Ralph Gibson 

Edward Thorp Gallery, New York 

Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, 

The Unfversity of the Arts 

320 South Broad Street 

Philadelphl^, pa 19102 

Museum of American Art of the 

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 

118 North Broad Street 

Philadelphia, PA 19102 

I value above all the ability of- art to move me 
emotionally and ps\'chically, without answers. 
I make art that makes me question, that derives 
its power from being vulnerable to interpretation, 
that is intuitive, that is beautiful. 

— April Gornik 

EMBODIED LANDSCAPES: Paintings and Drawings of April Gornik 

marks a number of firsts. Not only is it Gornik's first solo 
showing in Philadelphia, a city known tor its indigenous prac- 
tice ot contemporary landscape painting,' but it represents a 
first-time curatorial collaboration between two local visual-arts 
institutions: the Rosenwald- Wolf Gallery of The Universirv' of 
the Arts, whose director, Leah Douglas, conceived ot and orga- 
nized the exhibition, and the Museum of American Art ot the 
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The exhibition has 
been divided berween the two venues, with Gornik's paintings 
featured at the former and her drawings and prints on display 
at the latter. 

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Gornik studied at the Cleveland 
Institute of Art before transferring to the Nova Scotia College 
of Art and Design, in Canada; she currently lives in New York. 
At first glance, the artist and her art present a number of para- 
doxes: she is an urbanite who constructs evocative, sharply real- 
ized views of nature in her lower- Manhattan studio; she is also 
a thoroughly contemporary artist trained in the theories of con- 
ceptualism who acknowledges a debt to the history of art, ren- 
dering works that self-consciously recall America's late nine- 
teenth- and early twentieth-century landscape tradition. Yet, 
these apparent tensions resolve themselves in the hybrid nature 
of Gornik's art and its sources. Neither realist nor abstract, the 
work falls somewhere in berween; one critic has described her 
stylized approach as "cultivated primitivism," referring to her 
"faux-naif obsession with rendering the particularities of 
a scene. "- 

Dubbed a neoromantic in the eighties, Gornik has long 
been measured against the reach of history. Apparently because 
of the artist's own stated predilection for certain nineteenth- 
century American painters — Martin Johnson Heade is most 
frequently cited - critics have viewed Gornik as a latter-day 

(or postmodern) luminist. This view is legitimate on many 
levels. As a category of landscape painting virtually invented 
by post-war art historians sympathetic to modernist aesthetics, 
luminism - and, thus, Gornik's shared affinity with its practi- 
tioners - is inherently at a historical remove. ^^ Although not 
employed in the nineteenth century, the term "luminism" is 
generally applied to the culminating phase of the Hudson River 
School, the popular midcentury landscape tradition that has 
been interpreted, both then and now, in terms of national iden- 
tity. Less a coherent movement than a collection of stylistic 
attributes, luminism is identified primarily by horizontal, open 
compositions and an emphasis on light and atmosphere over 
other natural effects. 

More intimate in scale and mood than the bombastic 
spectacles of Frederic Edwin Church and Albert Bierstadt, the 
quiet, contemplative waterside views by luminist painters like 
Heade and Fitz Hugh Lane suggest the same lack of narrative 
detail and detached artistic presence apparent in Gornik's 
work. The smooth, glassy surface of a painting such as Moon 
Bay (1996) conveys a silent, static quality (punctuated by the 
massive islanded rocks) that in nineteenth-century imagery may 
have evoked Ralph Waldo Emerson's theory of transcenden- 
talism - the notion that the divine spirit is present in all physi- 
cal matter — the major intellectual tenet of luminism. 

Although the sheer size of Gornik's work, both paintings 
and drawings, seems to share more with the sublime produc- 
tions of Church and Bierstadt, its internal spatial immensity 
and concern with minimalist structure recalls luminism's essen- 
tially conceptual nature.'^ Moreover, the intrinsic theatricality of 
Gornik's landscapes, with their mysterious threat of impending 
disaster - for example. Smoke (1985), and Wind Behind Rain 
(1993) - underscored by the transitional suggestion of many 
of her titles — echo such works as Heade's stormy views of 

Narragansett Bay. 

Like the so-called luminists, Gornik approaches landscape 
as an exploration of light and form; she is less interested in ren- 
dering the details of any specific locale than in describing imag- 
ined views in spatial terms. 5 She uses atmospheric space to 
beckon the viewer into her unsettling, depopulated landscapes, 
in an effort to show "space looking back at you."'' This inven- 
tive approach to her subject matter has given Gornik's imagery 
a highly distinctive quality. Despite the apparent disappearance 
of the artist's hand in the scene, these works of bewitching, 
almost surreal beauty reveal a signature sry\e and sensibility 
unmistakably her own. 

What does it mean to be a landscape painter - 
stereotypically one of the most tradition-bound practices — 
in the postmodern age? In Gornik's case, it signifies a 
serious exploration of the meditative qualities of the genre 
through highly sophisticated formal means. Never simply an 
unmediated recording of reality, landscapes have always been 
loaded with cultural meanings. Gornik's contrived settings 
—drawn from memories, dreams, imaginings, as well as 
photographs — are no exception. An artist who finds the 
answers in her head rather than outdoors, Gornik eschews the 
plein-air approach of her historical predecessors both in her 
drawings and paintings. Although she uses the former as 
preliminary guides for the latter, her drawings (and prints) 
are fully realized tonal productions, full of luminous, 
painterly effects. 

Gornik describes her art in terms of her own emotional 
landscape, a concept most apparent in the recent waterfall 
paintings and waterway drawings. Examining the implications 
of landscape as a metaphor for human sexuality - that is, the 
body - these images also beg comparison with the sensual, 
organic landscape imagery of such American modernists as 
Georgia O'Keefife, Arthur Dove, and Charles Burchfield. 

Gornik's critical and popular success, which has 
positioned her as one of the most prominent landscape painters 

in the contemporary art world, reveals much about the endur- 
ing taste for the genre and its transformation in America. As 
Carter Ratclifif has observed, Gornik "persuades us to reimagine 
the familiar elements of landscape" through a language of per- 
sonal expression.^ Whether understood in the aesthetic context 
of romanticism, luminism, surrealism, or even postmodernism, 
her work conveys an emotional and psychological resonance 
that speaks to many. 

— Sylvia Yount, Curator of Collections 
Museum of" American Art of the 
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts 

1 See catalog for Lisa Panzera's recent curatorial exploration. An Extended 

View: Landscapes by Philadelphia Artists, May 28-August 1, 1997 
(Philadelphia: Levy Gallery for the Arts in Philadelphia, Moore 
College of Art and Design). 

2 Stephen Westfall, "April Gornik at Edward Thorp". Art In America, 

(October 1986), 168. 

3 John Wilmerding, Introduction, American Light: The Liiminist 

Movement, 1850-1875 (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of 
Art, 1980), 11-20. 

4 Barbara Novak, "On Defining Luminism," American Light, The Luminist 

Movement, 1850-1875, (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of 
Art, 1980), 28. 

5 In an interview with the author, Gornik cited Henri Matisse as her 

all-time favorite artist, admiring his use of color and light as 
structural elements. 

6 Carter Ratcliff April Gomik: Recent Paintings. April 21 -May 26, 1990 

(New York: Edward Thorp Gallery), 13. 

7 Ibid., 8. 

selected paintings 

Turning Waterfall, oil on linen, 76" x 76", 1997 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 

Moon Bay, oil on linen, 72" x 96", 1996 

Waterfall, oil on linen, 70" x 62", 1995 

Stepped Waterfall, oil on linen, 69" x 65 

Wind Behind Rain, oil on linen, 79" x 90", 1993 

Smoke, oil on canvas, 76" x 100", 1985 

selected works on paper 

Following the Waterway, charcoal on paper, 29" x 40", 1995 

Waterway Clearing, charcoal on paper, 38" x 50", 1995 

Two Clouds, charcoal on paper, 

38 X 50", 1994 

Atlas, charcoal on paper, 38" x 50", 1993 

Inside Out, charcoal on paper, 38" x 43", 1991 

Cloud Plume, charcoal on paper, 53.5" x 41.25", 1991 

Impending Rain, charcoal on paper, 38" x 50", 1990 

Divide, intaglio, 31" x 39", 1994 

Light After the Flood, intaglio, 24" x 41", 1987 



I. MOON BAY ■ OIL ON LINEN ■ 72" X 96" • 1996 

3. WATERFALL • OIL ON LINEN • 70" X 62" • 1995 

4. STEPPED WATERFALL • OIL ON LINEN ■ 69" X 65" • 199'i 

5. WIND BEHIND RAIN ■ OIL ON LINEN ■ 79" X 90" ■ 1993 

6. SMOKE ■ OIL ON CANVAS ■ 76" X lOo" ■ 198s 



9. TWO CLOUDS ■ CHARCOAL ON PAPER ■ 38" X So" • 1994 

10. ATLAS ■ CHARCOAL ON PAPER ■ 38" X 50" ■ 1993 

II. INSIDE OUT ■ CHARCOAL ON PAPER ■ 38" X 43" ■ 1991 

12. CLOUD PLLIME ■ CHARCOAL ON PAPER ■ 53.5" X 41.2s" • I99I 

13. IMPENDING RAIN ■ CHARCOAL ON PAPER • 38" X 50" • 1990 

14. DIVIDE ■ INTAGLIO • 31" X 39" • I994 

15. LIGHT AFTER THE FLOOD • INTAGLIO • 24" X 41" ■ 1987 

April Gornik: Bibliography 

Born: April 20, 1953. Clevel.ind. Ohio 
Lives: New York, NY 


Cleveland Insritute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971-75 

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Nova Scotia, Canada, B.F.A., 1976 


1998 Universiu' ot the Arts, Philadelphia, PA and the Museum ot American Art 

of the PennsyUania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA 
1997 Turner- Runyon Gallery, Dallas, TX 

1996 Eduard Thorp Galler>-, New York, NY 

1995 Kohn Turner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 
1 994 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 

Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY 

Offshore Gallery, East Hampton, NY 
1993 Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine Universin', Malibu, CA 

Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY, 1993, "April Gornik, Prmts" 
1992 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 
1990 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 

1988 University Art Museum, California State University, Long Beach, CA 

The Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, Canada 
1 987 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 
1986 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, m' 
1985 The Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, Canada 

Galerie Springer, Berlin 
1984 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 

Texas Gallery, Houston, TX 
1983 The New Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH 

Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 
1 982 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 

University ol Colorado Art Galleries, Boulder CO 
1981 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY 


1997 Center lor Curatorial Studies Museum, Bard College, 

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, "In Plain Sight" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Gallery Group Exhibition" 
Hammond Gallery, Lancaster OH, "Eight From Ohio: In 

and Out ot Bounds" 

1996 Turner & Runyon Gallery, Dallas, TX, "Inaugural Exhibition" 
Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL, "Destiny Manifest: 

American Landscape Paintings in the Nineties ' 


Freedman Gallery, Albright College Center for the Arts, Reading PA, 

"20/20: The Visionary Legacy ol Doris Chanin Freedman" 
Fotouhi-Cramer Gallery, NY, NY, "By the Sea" 
James Graham & Sons, NY, NY "Water" 
Fine Arrs Gallery at Southampton College, Southampton, NY, 

"Master Workshop Exhibition" 
Viridian Artists Inc, NY, NY, "The Paris Review Print and Poster Series" 
Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, New York, "Re- Presenting Representation 11" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY "Summer Gallery Group" 
The Work Space at Dolgenos Newman & Cronin, New York, NY, 

"Down The Garden Path" 
Mary Ryan Gallery, NY, "Elementum" 
Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami, FL, "American Art 

Today: Night Paintings" 
California Center For the Arts Museum, Escondido, CA, 

Revisiting Landscape" 
Lizan-Tops Gallery, East Hampton "Light and Shadow: The 

Changing Season" 
Galerie de la Tour, Amsterdam, 1995. "100 Personal Heroes Part 2" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Winter Gallery Group" 
Gallery Camino Real, Boca Raton, FL, "Landscape Not Landscape" 
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY, "Inspired by Nature" 
Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CT, "Timely and Timeless" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY', "Summer Galler.- Group ' 
Jan Weiner Caller)-, Kansas City, MO, "Still Light" 
Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO, "Mountains of the Mind: Ametican 

Mountain Landscape Painting from 1850 to the Present" 
Feigen Inc., Chicago, IL, "Changing Views " 
Jan Abrams Gallery, L.A., CA, "A Woman's Nature" 
The Morristown Museum, "Living With Art: The Collection of 

EUyn and Saul Dennison" 
Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH, "25 \ears" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Gallery Group" 
Whitney Museum, Fitchburg, CT, "Landscape as Metaphor" 
The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Arr, Ridgefield, CT, "Four Friends" 
travelled to: Rayburn Foundation, New York, NY, and 
Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL, and 
Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY "Gallery Group" 
Transamerica Pyramid Lobby, San Francisco, "Selective Vision" 
The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, "Romance and Irony in 

Recent American Art" 
The National Museum of Women, Washington, DC, "Presswork: Art of 

Women Printmakers" 
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Univ. of N. Carolina, Greensboro, NC 

"Art on Paper" 
Parrish Museum Design Biennial, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, 

NY, "Weathervanes" 

Edward Thorp Ci.illery, New York, NY, "Summer" 
Mary Ryan Gallery, New York, NY, "Landscapes" 
Annina Nosei Gallery, New York, NY, "Landscape Painting" 
1 990 Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Gallery Group Exhibition" 

Museum ol Art. Rhode Island School ol Design, Providence, RI, 

"Terra Incognita" 
Residence of the Ambassador, Mexico Cit)', Mexico, Mexico Cit\-, Mexico, 

"Contemporary American Artists" 
Graham Modern, New York, NY "Landscape on Paper" 
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, "Harmony & Discord: 

American Landscape Today" 
Whitney Downtown at Federal Reserve Plaza, NY, and Fairfield Count\', CT, 

"The (Un)Making of Nature" 
The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, "Romance & lron\' in Recent 

American Art" 
Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, "Didier Nolet: Dreams ot a Man 

Indiana University Art Museum, IN, "Echo Press: A Decade of Printmaking" 
1989 The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, "Painting Horizons: 

Jane Freilicher, Albert York, April Gornik" 
Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, "A Decade of 

Drawings: 1980-1989" 
Greensboro, NC, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Universit)' of Notth Carolina, 

"Art on Paper 1989" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Summer" 
Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, PA, "The Transformative Vision: 

Contemporary American Landscape Painting" 
The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton. OH, "A Cettain Slant of Light: The 

Contemporary American Landscape" 
National Gallery of Art, Wash, DC. "The 1980s: Prints from the Collection 

of Joshua P. Smith" 
Ruggiero Hems Gallery, NY, "Imminent Space" 
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX, "10 + 10: Contemporary 

Soviet & American Painters," 
travelled to: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, 
Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY and 
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wl, and 
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and 
Artist's Union Hall of the Tretyakov Embankment, Moscow, and 
Central Artists' Hall, Tbilisi, Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, and 
Central Exhibition Hall, Leningrad, 
The WTiitney Museum of American Art, New York. NY. 

"1989 Biennial Exhibition" 
The Whitney Museum of American Art at the Equitable Center. 

New York. NY. "Nocturnal Visions in Contemporary Painting" 
The Montclair Art Museum. Montclair, NJ. "Art of the '80s from the 

Chemical Bank Collection" 
The Art Museum at Flotida International University, Miami, FL 

"American Art Today; Contemporary Landscape " 

1988 Museum of Art. Rhode Island School of [:)esign. Providence, Rl, 

"Art for Your Collection" 
The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY, "Drawing on the 

East End, 1940-1988" 
Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA, "New American Landscape" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York. NY, "'Group Show" 
Marlborough Gallery, New York, NY, "Changing Perspectives in 

Contemporary Representations" 
Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville. SC. "Just Like a Woman"" 
National Academy ot Design. New York. NY. "Realism Today: 

American Drawings from the Rita Rich Collection," 
travelled to: Smith College. Northampton. MA. and 
The Arkansas Arts Center. Little Rock, AK, a)id 
The Butler Institute of American Art. Youngstown, OH 
1 98"" Edward Thorp Galler)'. New York. NY, '"Caller)' Group" 

Wellesley College Museum, MA. "1976-1986: Ten Years of Collecting 

Contemporary American Art, Selections from rhe Edward R. 

Downe. Jr. Collection"' 
Art Gallery, Long Island University, Southampton, NY, "The Masters 11" 
Chemical Bank Gallery, New York, NY, "The Great Outdoors" 
The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY, '"Boundless Realism: Conteniporarv 

Landscape Painting in the West" 
Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York, NY, ""Disquiet in the Landscape" 
The Whitney Museum of American Art, Fairfield Counrj', Stamford, CT. 

""The New Romantic Landscape" 
Sherry French Gallery. New York, NY. "Night Light/Night Life" 
Squibb Gallery. Princeton. NJ. "Landscapes: Real & Imagined" 
1986 Aldrich Museum ot Contemporary Art. Ridgetleld. CT. "A Contempotary 

View ot Nature'" 
Lorence Monk Gallery. New York. NY. "Manor in the Landscape" 
Weatherspoon Art Gallery, The University of North Carolina at 

Greensboro, NC. ""Art on Papet" 
Freedman Gallery. Albright College. Reading, PA. ""The Freedman Gallery: 

The First Decade" 
Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx. NY. ""Landscape in the Age ot .Anxien'" 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, ""Group Show'" 
Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles. CA, "Still Life/Life Still" 
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ, ""New Narrative Painting: 

Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art" 
Elliot Smith Gallery, Saint Louis, MO, ""The American Landscape"' 
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, NY, "Group Show" 
Luhring. Augustine & Hodes, New York, NY. "Watercolors" 
Contemporary Arts Center. New Orleans. LA. ""Landscape. Seascape. 

Cityscape 1960-198S," 
The New York Academy of Art. ""Landscape. Seascape, 

Cityscape 1960-1985." 
Jus de Pomme Gallerj', New York. NY, ""Artists Pick Artists""