FINDING THE “NEW” ARMENIA
The question is: What does the “new” Armenia look like? While attempting to understand “Kiss the Ground,” I kept an impression from a quote by famed Armenian-Canadian
master photographer Yousuf Karsh in mind: ”Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.”
The old Armenian word “Yergurbakootyoon” means to be in “total submission.” In English, the word and concept translates to “kiss the ground,” used here to mean heritage reverence. Contemporary Armenians are removed from the original source and subsequent re-grounding is expressed in “A New Armenia” — a redefined “Kiss the Ground.”
“Kiss the Ground” presents a vast five-component, two-venue exhibition project of visual expression, in a variety of artistic modes, applications and styles that dialogue about the Armenian-American cultural experience.
At its core, this is a project that defines, again, contemporary art; if we remove the Armenian character focus, we see a presentation that highlights the diversity of artistic production today.
The project in totality, all exhibition components at both venues, a long catalog and programming are organized by artist, author and curator Todd Bartel, the founder and director of The Thompson Gallery at The Cambridge School in Weston, Mass.
Bartel is an important part of this story. He has a history of creating multicomponent, interdisciplinary exhibitions about important timely issues. His deep interest in the Armenian cultural experience, specifically, spans decades and is both scholarly and personal. He explained that his interest in the theme of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and Diaspora (the keystone subject of the project) “arose out of familial circumstances, coupled with The Cambridge School’s dedication to engage with issues of social justice.”
The project features two spotlight solo exhibitions: the narrative paintings of Talin Megherian (discussed below) is the second of three shows in the series now at the Thompson Gallery; it follows a fall 2014 exhibit of the kinetic industrial sculptures of Chicago-based Gagik Aroutiunian.
“A New Armenia” Parts I, II and III is a series of group exhibitions, or “one theme, three views,” featuring 12 artists. Part I is on view through January 20 at The Armenian Museum of America in Watertown, Mass. The project culminates at the same time as the centennial anniversary commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in April 2015.
Bartel collaborated with participating artist Adrienne Der Marderosian (Belmont, Mass.), who assembled most of the artists and served as co-curator, giving form to the overall theme and defining the new Armenia. Der Marderosian’s intellectual “Migration” series is an elegant map-based, figurative, clean-line collage, mixed-media series that grapples with the complex issues of immigration dislocation, displacement and assimilation.
J. Fatima Martins