"The future of past things" celebrates contemporary Armenian art – Armenian Weekly | Candle Made Easy

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 showcased May 19 at the opening reception of The Future of Things Passed exhibition in Manhattan.

The exhibition features famous women artists of Armenian descent Eozen Agoian, 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. A portion of the proceeds from the exhibition’s art sales 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 established the practice to encourage representation of contemporary artists from marginalized backgrounds.

“We found that we wanted to show marginalized groups — Armenians, women, LGBTQ+, people of color,” Hovsepian told Armenian Weekly.

Hovsepian has previously worked with all of the artists featured in The Future of Things Passed at former galleries that she curated. She laments that artists like Simonian, who made their mark on the downtown Los Angeles art scene in the 1980s, while internationally recognized, are not as well known among Armenians. Through her joint curatorship with Atamian, she hopes to educate and nurture a new generation of Armenian art collectors.

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

According to Hovsepian, contemporary Armenian artists lack visibility both within the Armenian community and in the wider contemporary art world. She recalled the “Armenia!” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which showcased the artistic achievements of Armenians up to the 17th century.

“You can’t put an exhibition like ‘Armenia!’ to name. and stop and then don’t talk about what’s happening now. Where is the contemporary Armenian art?” asked Hovsepian. “Who else do we have in the Museum of Modern Art besides Arshile Gorky?”

The Future of Things Passed explores how art can “deconstruct and uncover elements of the past through sensory memories and found objects, and make enduring statements through those interpretations,” according to an essay presented to visitors at the gallery door. The gallery’s focus on the future is inspired by Armenian Futurism, defined by Sylvia Alajaji as “a realm where reimaginings and reassertions of the queer and otherwise marginalized Armenian past give way to a future filled with 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 adversity.

“How do we create an inclusive, vibrant, forward-thinking Armenian community that thinks about its future and is progressive and at the forefront?” Atamian introduced himself.

Atamian, an acclaimed writer, editor and translator, noted how the artworks on display repurpose memories and found objects from the past. Ganjian’s Map of Her Prayers, No. 1-6,” for example, contains inscriptions from a prayer book her grandmother carried with her during the Der Zor genocide of Armenians.

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 is forward-looking and that people want to collect?” Atamian said of the impact of Ganjian’s artwork.

Atamian believes that Armenians should support contemporary Armenian artworks not only because they are beautiful, but also because they can further Armenian political causes, such as recognizing the Armenian Genocide and peacefully resolving the Artsakh conflict, by making an emotional investment generate into these topics.

“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. When you have an artwork or a book in Armenian, you have an emotional connection rather than just a policy statement.”

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

“I look at each individual component and wonder what the story behind it is and what meaning it has for the artist and then for me. The built-in text is in Armenian. I don’t speak Armenian. I’m just wondering what the passages are. It looks like there are doorbells. I wonder if that is a signal to God or a signal for help. I like pieces that have a lot to think about,” Sherbetdjian said of Map of Her Prayers.

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

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

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

Atamian and Hovsepian plan to continue curating exhibitions to place artworks by artists from marginalized backgrounds in institutions such as museums and galleries. They hope that Armenians will support their fellow artists by collecting contemporary art.

“It’s as beautiful as the art found in every museum and community, so why not display it?” Atamian surrendered.

The Future of Things Passed will be on display at 138 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001 on the first floor until May 29, 2022 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Lilian 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 Middle Eastern studies from New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian’s first collection of poetry, Journey to Tatev, was published with Girls on Key Press in Spring 2021.

Lilian Avedian

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