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Gallery's debut show reminiscent of Gorky

February 04, 2011|By Terri Martin

If you favor Arshile Gorky, you will love the new Mkrtchyan Art Gallery in Glendale.

As an Armenian American, Gorky (1902-1948) was a central figure in the development of 20th century art, blending imagery from his youth in Armenia with innovative artistic techniques. The Mkrtchyan exhibition represents artists who capture a similar emotional and subjective content, and collectively cross boundaries between impressionism, cubism, surrealism and naïve art, which were seminal in Gorky’s early work.

Eduard Artsrunyan’s oil painting on canvas titled “Churn” (1993) is a coalescence of Gorky’s figurative works in the 1920s and ’30s. A female figure leans against a wooden pole, resting her hand momentarily on her implement of labor. She is barefoot in an orange peasant dress with apron, and white cap over her dark hair.

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Symbolic details, cross around her neck and rifle hung on the pole where she takes her comfort, hint at her life. Blocks of color create geometry and a confused depth of field. The warm palette and facial expression of the woman project more repose than fatigue.

The composition and potential political undertones, represented by the images of a laborer, rifle and cross, are characteristic of Gorky’s work, who was profoundly impressed by the strife of the Armenian people during their abuse by Turkish troops in 1915. Artsrunyan’s painting has the pathos that inspired Gorky.

Quarik Hovhannisyan’s “Still Life” (2006) is reminiscent of Paul Cezanne, considered to be a father to modern art and one of Gorky’s influences. Gorky was mostly self-taught but was profoundly impressed by the vivid color, energetic brushstrokes and original compositions of Cezanne’s work.

Hovhannisyan’s vase of flowers and apples rest on a hint of a table. The gray nondescript background sets off the bright pink, white and lavender flowers in a yellow vase. Two apples in the right foreground accentuate the naïve perspective that is characteristic in both Cezanne and Gorky’s still-life works. The composition is well calculated.

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