Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Beyond Narrative: Varujan Boghosian

[“American Bouquet” (1997), mixed media construction. “Homage to Joseph Albers” (1995), paper collage. “Three Yellow Objects” (1998), mixed media construction.]

Various roles of selector, editor, builder, and juxtaposer characterize the working method of Varujan Boghosian. Cherishing the out-dated and the cast-off, Boghosian energizes them in a process imbuing them with new meaning, aesthetic value, and a contemporary sense. From Boghosian’s studio, old children’s toys, antiquated tools, and oddball objects are transformed into collages, relief constructions, boxes, and sculpture. One can get a sense of the working method of this lifelong collector at his solo show at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, which runs through January 9, 2010. Berta Walker, of the renowned Provincetown gallery bearing her name, has lauded the elegance, lyricism, and poetic nature of Boghosian’s work, calling it “Haiku in found objects.”

Constant trips to flea markets and antique stores have paid off handsomely for Boghosian, who has parlayed these scavenged parts and scraps onto a palette in which time is an essential element. Yet, this sense of time impacts on a number of levels, including Boghosian’s working process: Objects amass in his studio, perhaps waiting years for their new purpose to reveal itself. Even when recontextualized and reconfigured by the artist—however surprisingly and surrealistically—these objects and materials tend to manifest age and vulnerability despite their “rescue.” Boghosian’s very fluency in transcending previous contexts allows a conversation with the past without an ensuing nostalgia. Importantly, he does this without diminishing the integrity of his materials.

Boghosian has even recast history and legend in pursuit of his artistic endeavor. One source repeatedly mined by Boghosian has been the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Robert M. Doty, curator of Boghosian’s 1989 retrospective exhibition at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth, explained the artist’s ability to forge something ever larger out of component parts: “There is a mood about the work, a stirring of feelings about life and death, which is greater than the specific narrative and has universal meaning and appeal. Boghosian has revitalized the myth of Orpheus in his own terms, using physical means to create images which act as catalysts for transforming individual rapport into the most fundamental human experience.” Under Boghosian’s hand, Leonardo “goes native” in the Victorian Era before exploding like a psychedelic time-bomb into the 1960s. That, while the pitiful—yet hopeful—Orpheus is imprisoned in brick.

The G.I. Bill allowed WWII veteran Boghosian to attend the Yale School of Art and Architecture, where he studied under Josef Albers (1888–1976) whose name appears on a collage in this show. Albers’ students also include the likes of Robert Rauschenberg, Susan Weil, Cy Twombly, and Ray Johnson. An eminent refugee from the Third Reich, Albers—whose work represents a transition from traditional art of the European academy to American modernism—is probably best known for his abstract paintings and his role in art theory. Bauhaus communicant Albers appropriated Color-Aid—originally developed in 1948 as a backdrop for photographers—and propelled it into a staple media for modernist color theory.

In addition to Lori Bookstein Fine Art, Boghosian’s work has been presented at—or is in the permanent collections of—such entities as Stable Gallery, Cordier & Ekstrom, Berta Walker Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Hood Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum. Twice artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, Boghosian has taught at Pratt Institute, the Cooper Union, Yale, Brown, and Dartmouth.

According these weathered doors and windows, ornamental woodwork, toys, tools, and set after set of children’s building blocks with new identities through his faithful and masterful assemblage, Boghosian (the son of an Armenian cobbler) casts a light on roles played by dislocation and repositioning in identity’s construction. Indeed, upon such dislocation or “repositioning”—whether successful, tragic, or both—rests much of the history of the 20th century. Woefully, in light of identity’s seemingly intractable nature, this “exploration” remains unresolved.

Varujan Boghosian
Through January 9, 2010
@ Lori Bookstein Fine Art
138 Tenth Avenue, NYC 10011

1 comment:

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