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"The Future of Things Passed" celebrates contemporary Armenian art – Armenian Weekly

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Collectors Preview of The Future of Things Passed (Photo: Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice Facebook page)

NEW YORK, NY—The future of the Armenian community was on display at the opening reception of “The Future of Things Passed” exhibition in Manhattan on May 19th.

The exhibition features celebrated women artists of Armenian descent Eozen Agopian, Melissa Dadourian, Linda Ganjian and Judith Simonian. It is the first developed by the Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice, co-founded by Christopher Atamian and Tamar Hovsepian. Part of the proceeds from art sales at the exhibition will be donated to the New York Armenian Students’ Association Scholarship Fund.

Eozen Agopian, Christopher Atamian, Judith Simonian and Tamar Hovsepian (Photo: Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice Facebook page)

Atamian and Hovsepian launched the practice to promote representation of contemporary artists from marginalized backgrounds.

“We identified that we want to show marginalized groups—Armenian, women, LGBTQ+, people of color,” Hovsepian told the Armenian Weekly.

Hovsepian has previously worked with all of the artists featured in “The Future of Things Passed” in former galleries she has curated. She laments that while artists like Simonian, who gained renown within the downtown Los Angeles art scene of the 1980s, are internationally acclaimed, they are not as well known among Armenians. Through her joint curatorship with Atamian, she hopes to educate and cultivate a new generation of Armenian art collectors. 

“Larry Gagosian is one of the wealthiest, most famous art dealers, and he doesn’t have a single Armenian artist that he represents,” she offered as an example of the absence of support for contemporary Armenian art. “Why is there not a single art gallery in Chelsea that shows Armenian artists?”

Contemporary Armenian artists lack visibility both within the Armenian community and the broader contemporary art world, according to Hovsepian. She recalled the “Armenia!” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which displayed the artistic achievements of Armenian people up until the 17th century. 

“You can’t title an exhibition ‘Armenia!’ and stop and then not talk about what’s happening now. Where is the contemporary Armenian art?” Hovsepian asked. “Outside of Arshile Gorky, who do we have at the Museum of Modern Art?”

“The Future of Things Passed” explores how art can “deconstruct and uncover elements of the past through sense memory and found objects, while making lasting statements through these interpretations,” as stated in an essay presented to visitors at the gallery door. The orientation of the gallery toward the future is inspired by Armenian Futurism, defined by Sylvia Alajaji as “a realm in which re-imaginings and re-claimings of queer and otherwise marginalized Armenian pasts give way to futures of possibility and wonder.”

Atamian says that Armenian Futurism, theorized by artists like Kamee Abrahamian, Mashinka Firunts Hakopian and Hrag Vartanian, can inspire creativity and visionary thinking beyond pain and hardship. 

“How do we create an inclusive vibrant forward-thinking Armenian community that thinks about its future and being progressive and being at the cutting edge?” Atamian posed. 

Atamian, a celebrated writer, editor and translator, noted how the artwork on display repurposes memories and found objects from the past. For instance, Ganjian’s series “Map of Her Prayers, No. 1-6,” incorporates inscriptions from a prayer book her grandmother carried with her through Der Zor during the Armenian Genocide. 

Map of Her Prayers #5 by Linda Ganjian (Photo: Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice Facebook page)

“How do you take something from the past and make something beautiful that’s forward thinking and that people want to collect?” Atamian said of the impact of Ganjian’s artwork.

Atamian believes that Armenians should support contemporary Armenian artwork, not only because it is beautiful, but also because it can promote Armenian political causes, such as Armenian Genocide recognition and the peaceful resolution of the Artsakh conflict, by generating an emotional investment in these issues. 

“People need to know who Armenians are,” Atamian said. “Americans and people in Europe don’t have a gut reaction to it, because they don’t know about it. If you have a piece of art or a book that is Armenian, you have an emotional connection rather than just a policy paper.”

K Sherbetdjian attended the opening reception and was struck by the emotional intensity of Ganjian’s artwork. 

“I’m looking at each individual component, and I’m wondering what the story is behind it and what the significance is for the artist, and then also what the significance is for me. The text that’s incorporated is in Armenian. I don’t speak Armenian. I just wonder what the passages are. It looks like there’s doorbells. I’m wondering if that is a signal to God or a signal for help. I like pieces where there’s a lot to think about,” Sherbetdjian reflected on “Map of Her Prayers.” 

As an artist, Caroline Gates recognized her own art studio within Studio Ballou, a painting of an art studio by Simonian. Gates wandered into “The Future of Things Passed” after a painting by Simonian near the door caught her eye. 

“Even in the abstraction you can hold onto something concrete. It does a really good job of taking us back through spaces that are familiar, but we could see it through every lens of the different times that we were there,” Gates said while studying Studio Ballou. “I feel very placed. I could stare at this forever.”

Studio Ballou by Judith Simonian (Photo: Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice Facebook page)

Atamian and Hovsepian plan to continue curating exhibitions to place artwork by artists from marginalized backgrounds within institutions like museums and galleries. They hope Armenians will support their fellow artists by collecting contemporary art. 

“This is as beautiful as the art you find in any museum and community, so why not represent it?” Atamian posed. 

“The Future of Things Passed” will be on display until May 29, 2022 from 11 A.M.-7 P.M. on the ground floor of 138 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001. 

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian’s first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

Lillian Avedian

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Shiny sculpture relocated to shady northeast Calgary streetcorner – CTV News Calgary

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A piece of public art that was removed and put into storage after burning a hole through a spectator’s jacket has been reinstalled in a new location.

The Wishing Well made a splashy return Thursday morning in the Bridgeland neighbourhood.

“Great cities have great public art and Calgary is a great city,” said Alex MacWilliam, president of the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association.

“This is just one more reason for people to be proud that (they) live here and we’re excited for people to come and visit us.”

The piece was initially installed outside the Genesis Centre in the city’s northeast in 2012.

A year later, someone admiring the stainless steel statue complained her coat had been scorched by the refraction of the sun’s rays.

It was removed in 2014 but the City of Calgary has been working with the San Francisco-based artists, Living Lenses, to fix the safety issues, including putting non-reflective coating inside the sculpture and moving it to a 20 degree angle.

“We’ve done a lot of study around this, how the sun moves in this space and the 20 degree angle really mitigates the remaining safety concerns,” said Julie Yepishina-Geller, the public art liaison for the City of Calgary.

Geller said the piece’s new home at the Bridge, a multi-family rental living space and retail plaza by JEMM Properties located in the 900 block of McPherson Square N.E., will also help as it provides more shade.

Geller said the piece’s new home at the Bridge, a multi-family rental living space and retail plaza by JEMM Properties located in the 900 block of McPherson Square N.E., will also help as it provides more shade.

“It’s really a combination of factors that we had to consider so we started the process three years ago and have been sort of chipping away at it ever since,” she said.

Edan Lindenbach, principal of land planning and development with JEMM Properties, said it’s been a dream of the company’s to “activate” Bridgeland.

“We really wanted to give back more than just by providing more density and creating more residences for Bridgeland,” he said.

“We’re just so excited to have achieved that. I think this sculpture is going to be enjoyed by so many people. I think it’s going to be great for kids. It’s going to be an awesome corner for Bridgeland now.”

MULTI-MEDIA SCULPTURE

The art piece isn’t just a visual experience. People can also send a text with a message or greeting that will be played inside through light and sound.

“The sounds are made from voice recordings of people across Calgary, so essentially the melodies created are your fellow Calgarians singing messages back to you,” Geller said.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said as more people in Calgary choose to live in higher density areas, there needs to be access to all types of amenities.

“Amenity is access to beautiful parks, it’s access to amazing shops and services, and then it’s also access to amazing culture and having a stunning piece of public art on this corner really plants that flag,” he said.

Committee chair Gian-Carlo Carra, a long time advocate for increased housing density, says there are no easy decisions to accommodate the sudden burst of growth.

Many people in the area also agree that having more public art around the city adds value.

“I think it’s nice to have something here instead of just having nothing there around this community, it’s growing,” Ethan Do said.

Willow Walker, another resident, took a break from her bike ride to admire The Wishing Well.

She said she appreciates works of art like it and would like to see more.

“It makes people pause and talk and share their ideas and it’s a happy thing,” Walker said.

Carlos Valdez agreed, and said, “It’s pretty nice just to walk around downtown and see art the people have made and it makes the city come more alive.”

SMALL SCALE PROJECTS COMING SOON

The city’s public art liaison said there are going to be several small scale projects in the northeast, including at the Genesis Centre, that will be installed over the next two years.

“This is going to enable art by local artists to be enjoyed throughout the quadrant, including a new future sculpture at the Genesis site,” Geller said.

She said the city has learned lessons from this experience but said each piece of public art is different and there isn’t a “cookie cutter approach.”

“Now we are really focused on looking at all aspects of a piece, looking at the site in combination with the material that’s used and that certainly always has been and will continue to be a focus of the program,” Geller said.

The relocation of The Wishing Well comes at no additional cost to Calgary taxpayers, according to Geller.

The sculpture is 3.88 metres tall, 5.36 metres wide and four metres deep. It weighs 2,200 kilograms.

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Kent Monkman's subversive art creates a counter-narrative of Indigenous experience – CBC.ca

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This episode originally aired on April 19, 2016.

The work of Kent Monkman is always arresting — whether it’s a lush landscape, an immersive mixed-media installation, or a vivid performance. At centre stage is his flamboyant, two-spirit artistic persona, Miss Chief, or “mischief” — a kind of trickster figure in drag, through which Monkman challenges the representation of Indigenous people in Western art. 

Monkman was born in 1965 to a mother of English and Irish descent and a Cree father. He grew up in Winnipeg, where he strongly identified with his Indigenous roots. His work is exhibited in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Through the summer of 2022, he has exhibitions at the National Gallery of Canada and at the Royal Ontario Museum in the fall.

Monkman spoke to Eleanor Wachtel in Toronto in 2016.

Detail of a painting by Kent Monkman. Painted in a realistic style, two figures appear at centre, floating in the heavens. The figure at left is a male figure with long black flowing hair wearing flowing pink and white fabric and black pumps. They appear to float on a cloud. At right, another humanoid figure clothed in draped fabric, but with the head and tail of a snarling coyote.
Detail of a painting by Kent Monkman. (Kent Monkman)

Inspiring and troubling

“I grew up in River Heights in Winnipeg in the 1970s, which was predominantly non-Native. So all of my classmates were Anglo-Saxon kids. I’d go to the Manitoba Museum, which had a display of life-size dioramas. They still have them. They’re fascinating to look at because they are representative of Indigenous cultures in this sort of pre-contact time capsule.

It was inspiring to see this idyllic representation of First Nations cultures. But you would step outside the museum and there on Main Street was Skid Row.

“There’s a bison hunt that’s as realistic as you can get in terms of a museum diorama. It was inspiring to see this idyllic representation of First Nations cultures. But you would step outside the museum and there on Main Street was Skid Row. You have the fallout of colonization and people that have been damaged through colonization.

“I remember my classmates would ask me, ‘What happened to your people?’ Because I was First Nations and I just could not answer that question. I didn’t have the language.

“I didn’t know how to reconcile what was in the museum and what had happened and what was on the streets of Winnipeg at that time.” 

The Rise and Fall of Civilization | Mixed Media Installation – 2015 | Gardiner Museum (Jimmy Limit)

Mixed mediums

“I’m not a trained sculptor, so I basically work with the figure sculpture or the figure mannequin. I’m not trying to make classical or beautiful figure sculptures. I’m using those cheesy, tacky, human mannequins that are used to represent people in dioramas and then trying to create an environment that simulates a natural environment.

I’m using the components that are present in dioramas to make an art piece that feels like a diorama — a life-sized figure’s furniture or animals — and using those to challenge some of the representations of First Nations people.

“Or it could also actually be an interior setting, but the idea is that I’m using the components that are present in dioramas to make an art piece that feels like a diorama — a life-sized figure’s furniture or animals — and using those to challenge some of the representations of First Nations people.”

Triumph of Miss Chief | 84″ x 132″ — 2007 | Acrylic on canvas | Collection of the National Gallery of Canada

An empowered alter ego

“Creating Miss Chief was a strategy to, again, challenge the subjectivity of the artists in the 19th century, like George Catlin, John Mix Stanley, various others who were painting themselves in their own work. And it was a way of challenging the subjectivity of the work by saying, okay, ‘This is an artist with his own creative license who’s painting himself in his work.’

“It was also about the ego of the artist, to promote themselves, to have such a strong position.

I wanted my alter ego to be front-and-centre in a very aggressive way to reverse the gaze as a First Nations artist that could appear to live in that time period and be the observer of European settler cultures.

“I wanted my alter ego to be front-and-centre in a very aggressive way to reverse the gaze as a First Nations artist that could appear to live in that time period and be the observer of European settler cultures. So she has proven to be an effective way of disrupting this historical narrative — the dominant narrative that we’ve received through art history and through the telling of history.

“And because she’s a diva alter ego, she kind of demands to be at centre stage.” 

Sunday in the Park | 72″ x 96″ — 2010 | Acrylic on canvas

Disrupting perception

“I wanted to disrupt people’s perception about this received history. We go to museums, we see these paintings. We accept that this is the authoritative version of how North America was settled — made by European settler artists. So my intent was to get people to ask questions that may be uneasy questions about what was actually happening when those paintings were being made.

“People were being forcibly removed from the land. Those landscapes were all empty — most of them were empty. But there were many, many nations of people that lived in North America that were being removed.

I wanted to think about the Indigenous people and their relationship to the land.

“So the paintings for me were lies, and at least they were subjective. It was a story of North America that was told from one side. I wanted to think about the Indigenous people and their relationship to the land. It is a fact that they were living in these landscapes but were never visible — or very rarely were they ever painted in these landscapes.” 

Focusing on resilience

“In a lot of my work, I really prefer to focus on the resilience of Indigenous people, the resilience of our cultures. We’re still here — despite all of these theories of the ‘vanishing Indian,’ the end of the trail; we are still present.

“We are still innovative cultures. We are still moving forward.”

In a lot of my work, I really prefer to focus on the resilience of Indigenous people, the resilience of our cultures.

Kent Monkman ‘reverses the colonial gaze’ with new paintings at the Met

3 years ago

Duration 3:30

Visitors to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art will be greeted by two ‘bold’ new paintings from Cree artist Kent Monkman for the next few months.

Kent Monkman’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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Calgary's Peace Bridge is a 'work of art', city officials say | CTV News – CTV News Calgary

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City officials are hoping a new display at an iconic Calgary landmark will help prevent a costly issue.

The campaign, called the Vandalism Gallery, aims to reduce the amount of damage that’s being done to the Peace Bridge each year.

Since the bridge opened in 2012, city crews have been forced to replace a number of the glass panels because of vandalism.

City officials says the incidents have gotten worse in recent years.

“We have seen an increase in vandalism to the Peace Bridge’s glass panels, mainly from people throwing rocks at the bridge from the east riverbed,” said Charmaine Buhler, bridge maintenance manager, in a release.

According to city data, it costs approximately $80,000 per year to remove and replace broken panels on the bridge. So far, they haven’t needed to order new panels because they are still working through a supply of replacements that were supplied when the structure was installed.

With the change of season, city officials says vandalism to the bridge does increase, so they wanted to do something to encourage residents to look after it.

The display includes a number of “works of art” that have been damaged, along with the message, “You’re standing in a work of art.”

The city is increasing security measures on the Peace Bridge to reduce vandalism.

Buhler says she hopes it will help residents understand they should enjoy the bridge, not break it.

“We’ll remind the people who use it, and live in the neighbourhood, that artwork is something to be admired, not vandalized,” Buhler said. “We are also hoping it will encourage people to report suspicious behaviour and vandalism-in-progress to police.”

The city says this awareness effort is part of a larger campaign to reduce vandalism at the site. Some of the other methods are improving security patrols, installing security cameras and pursuing stiffer penalties for offenders.

An average of six panels are broken per year, the city says.

Crews are also looking into the possibility of using a different material that can’t be broken so easily.

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