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In the Desert with Richard Artschwager

“In my beginning is my end.” The first line of T. S. Eliot’s poem “East Coker” — the second of his Four Quartets — came unexpectedly to mind when I returned for a last look at Richard Artschwager’s The Desert, a selection of pastels along with two paintings, at David Nolan Gallery. Artschwager’s mischievousness seems to have slipped into my thinking because I misremembered the line as: “In my end is my beginning.” Did I transpose the words because the artist is nearly ninety, and he began working on landscapes in color around 2007, when he was in his mid-eighties? The subject matter of many of the drawings is beginnings and endings as they are played out through the filters of the artist’s memory and imagination.