BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
What happens when a guy who is an art illiterate goes to an exhibit of a surrealist artist and then gets it in his head to write about it? Sounds like the lead-up to an insipid joke, but it’s real. Read on, and we’ll all find out.
Last week I did my “Armenian duty” and went to the Vosdanig Adoian (Arshile Gorky) exhibit at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
Weird. All bubbly/bulbous shapes, with lots of holes showing that allegedly represent things we all know (Webster defines surrealism as, “the principles, ideals, or practice of producing fantastic or incongruous imagery or effects in art, literature, film, or theater by means of unnatural or irrational juxtapositions and combinations”). Somehow the alleged trees and planes and other common things escaped me. I could recognize portraits though, and those were also bubbly. The one thing I thought I saw, repeatedly in various paintings was a palette, (not to be confused with a pallet or palate), which, I suppose, is unsurprising, given that Gorky was a painter and probably had his thumb sticking through one for much of his waking time. That thumb hole in the palette, and the repeatedly seen holes in the paintings probably mean something.
But the exhibit isn’t all paintings. There’s a very informative and interesting 20ish minute biographical video with his wife speaking about him. The descriptions next to some of the paintings are also extremely helpful, historically and descriptively, for those, like me, who are utterly artistically uniformed.
I also learned that artists, at least Gorky, named his paintings AFTER he was done with them. I couldn’t help but reflect on these pieces I write. I almost can’t write one until the title’s gelled in my head.
Of course, I ran into friends and acquaintances. This time, they weren’t all Armenian, I ran into a former coworker! That was true of the attendees in general. Most seemed not to be Armenians, attesting to the genuine importance of this child of our nation to the art world.
And the exhibit halls were quite full. I can’t speculate as to whether it was because it was the cheapskate night (the museum has received funding and opens for three free hours on Thursday nights) or if that flow of people was constant.
Make sure you go, free or paying, at least those of you living in the LA basin. Only two weeks remain to the exhibit for those who, like me, are avid procrastinators, or, have just plain been too busy. Get in there, see it. Take the kids, and everyone else. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Recognize, it’s not easy assembling millions of dollars worth of paintings from individual and institutional collections for such an exhibit. It was certainly interesting. Oh, and buy the exhibit catalog/book— think of the showing-off privileges that provides! And please, if you figure out what the holes in the pictures signify, let me know…