Aspiration is one of a cycle of thirteen abstract paintings by Augustus Vincent Tack commissioned in 1928 by Duncan Phillips to decorate a large gallery at his museum. Tack’s mystical and transcendental vision reached its culmination in this abstract series of decorative panels, which the artist considered the crowning achievement of his career and which are important to the history of abstract painting in the United States. This jewel-like painting, progressing toward a glowing opalescence of color and apparitional earth and sky forms, resulted in Tack’s apocalyptic vision of the American West.
The Tack Room at The Phillips Collection was meant to invite the viewer to contemplate universal emotions and the underlying unity of life and art. The abstracted and fragmented forms in Aspiration, as well as several works in the series, were directly inspired by Tack’s recent experience of the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains; like others before him, he found in the Western landscape implications of spiritual power and transcendence. Painted in 1931 as the last work in the series, Aspiration suggests a yearning for spiritual fulfillment through increasingly bright hues and mounting forms.