A prolific Armenian artist, Rubik Kocharian passed away on Friday, November 29, 2019. The community lost an individual who had the deepest compassion and love of his roots, his Armenian heritage, its history, and cultural treasures. His objective in life was to preserve these values and share them with generations to come through his artwork.
Born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1940, like many Armenian families during the Soviet years, Kocharian was exiled with his parents to Siberia from 1946 to 1953. They landed in Bashkiria, where, under very difficult living conditions, young Rubik decided to become a painter. Here, an exiled Russian painter Ivan Pavlov became his art teacher. The family was allowed to return to Armenia in 1953.
An avid student of history and ancient civilizations, Kocharian, merged several styles of the Masters while preparing his own paints and colors to express his artistry.
According to critics, while in New York he was known as a major exponent of a new art movement called “Magic Realism.” Upon his move to Los Angeles from New York, Kocharian’s subject matters changed from depicting urban squalor to nature studies and still lifes, preserving the spirit, joy, and bright colors.
“His meticulously rendered nature studies and still lifes reflect his interest in Italian Renaissance art. Technically advanced, almost Pre-Raphaelite in their obsessive attention to detail, Kocharian’s repetitious array of flowers, fruit and gnarled tree trunks exalt representational realism as if the 20th-Century Modernist experiment had never existed,” reported the Los Angeles Times in August 1987.
“Ruben Kocharian’s paintings are dense, detail-packed still lifes and pictures of everyday life. Rich with the descriptive texture of blistered paint, papery onion skins and crisply folded cloth, these genre scenes have a closely observed intensity,” reported the L.A. Times in April 1989.
Kocharian, who may be considered a classical-naturalist in his style of painting, was one of the few Armenian artists who took on the challenge of creating some of the significant traditional historical events of Armenian history through his paintings.
Kocharian migrated to the United States in 1974. He arrived with no money, having to leave behind all of his paintings in the Soviet Union. During the early years in the United States, the artist’s life was very challenging to say the least. He established his studio called, “Rabutwo Gallery” on 126 Madison Avenue (between 30th and 31st St) in New York. In a short time, Kocharian came up with a completely new series of artwork that were exhibited in well-known galleries in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1980, he was invited to Greece where he created a series of paintings and drawings of “Armenian Village” on Greek island Crete.
Two significant events in his life provided direction to Kocharian’s artistry and talent. The first was in 1967, when he was introduced to Boris Borisovich Piotrovskiy – director of Hermitage museum of Leningrad at the time – who was conducting archaeological work in Armenia. Piotrovkiy visited his studio in Yerevan, Armenia and was very pleased to see his paintings. He posed for his portrait, during which Kocharian asked questions about the history of ancient Armenia.
In Kocharian’s words: “I was working on a composition ‘King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini.’ That temple was in [the] Yerevan region and Boris Borisovich was conducting archaeological work there, too. His answers to all my questions stood in my mind since then, and my first historical composition ‘King Argishti visiting the temple of God Teishebaini’ was accepted to the juried exhibition at Artist Union of Armenia and was bought by Ministry of Culture of Arm SSR. Since then, I dedicated to painting compositions presenting Armenian history.”
The year 1984 was the second crucial point in his profession and life. He married Anahit Yesayan, who was once his art student in Yerevan. Rubik found the support, comfort, and motivation to flourish. Anahit brought stability to his life, providing him the opportunity to further develop himself and his creative, artistic talent. In 1986, he moved to Los Angeles where he exhibited his work at the Heritage Gallery and other exhibition halls. In 1996, the artist and his family moved to Fresno /Clovis, California where he was active in art circles and had held numerous exhibitions over the years.
Kocharian continues: “After emigrating to U.S., I kept working on that subject matter. For the past 20 years, I am painting compositions on Armenian history from B.C. to Christian history periods.”
His last three solo exhibitions were held at the Armenian Museum of Fresno. The opening night reception of his world premier exhibition titled, “Armenia: From BC to Christianity” was on Friday, September 2, 2016 on the 25th anniversary celebration of Independence of Artsakh. The following year, his exhibited was opened on September 21, 2017 titled, “All Things Pomegranate” – a symbol of fertility and rebirth dedicated to the independence of Armenia from then Soviet system. In 2018, his series on “Conceptual Still Lifes” depicting ever changing traditions and values of our lifestyle dominated the show.
Kocharian’s art is based on his lifetime devotion in studying the history, traditions, and culture of the Armenian people and other ancient civilizations. During the past few years, he had created several new paintings that the Armenian Museum of Fresno was in the process of compiling in an upcoming 122 pages 12×12 monograph, composed of some 40 original oil-on-linen paintings, which will be accompanied with bilingual captions providing their historic significance in the Armenian heritage and culture. Kocharian was working on a new composition when he unexpectedly passed, on November 29, 2019 at 3 a.m. at a local hospital.
The family requests that In Lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of Rubik Kocharian to the Armenian Museum of Fresno and mailed to P. O. Box 5921 Fresno, CA 93755. The funds will be used to publish his artwork. Heartfelt condolences to his wife Anahit, son Mourad, and all his relatives. May he rest in peace.