There is a small exhibition in memory of Charles Garabedian (1923 – 2016) currently at Sidecar, the adjoining annex space of Betty Cuningham Gallery on the Lower East Side. Consisting of one painting on each of the room’s three walls (the fourth is a large window facing the street), it’s a quick reminder of the long life and prolific output of a Los Angeles painter whose work was filled to bursting with light, color, and a ribald empathy for his fellow human beings.
In the introduction to an interview for Hyperallergic Weekend published the year before he died, Jennifer Samet captures Garabedian’s personality and influence in a single paragraph:
He stays above the fray throughout our conversation, telling the stories of the myths he loves and travel adventures with friends, rather than explaining the work or aesthetic decisions. “You are a humanist,” his wife Gwen calls out to him, when she hears us discussing his personal relationship to Greek tragedy. Garabedian is humble but ambitious; the figures in his paintings are monumental but gawky – relatable heroes and heroines. It is hard to imagine the work of Dana Schutz, Judith Linhares, and Francesco Clemente without Garabedian’s example, although Garabedian would never claim to lead any school; he is too busy with the challenges and fun of the daily work, even at age 91.
In deceptively cheery colors, 91-year-old artist Charles Garabedianreimagines famous tales of woe from classical mythology, where murder, torture, and madness abound. “Sacrifice for the Fleet,” now at L.A. Louver, hosts a series of new and recent works born from the artist’s fascination with Greek literature, Biblical texts, and Armenian manuscripts (he is the son of Armenian refugees). A proponent of so-called “Bad Painting,” Garabedian’s paintings possess an illustrative quality, with raw figuration and garish hues.
If you've never seen works by Los Angeles based artist, Charles Garabedian, let me warn you before you step into LA Louver Gallery to see his latest exhibition. Garabedian's paintings and drawings illustrate dramatic and painful moments of Greek mythology and Christianity. And most of his characters are naked, frightened and rather ugly.
LOS ANGELES — “I can barely remember doing all this,” Charles Garabedian says to me as he flips through the pages of his own museum exhibition catalog, which I have brought along. We are talking in his studio: a no-frills, large street-level space on West Washington Boulevard in Mid-City Los Angeles, with paintings on paper in progress, and endless marks and grids on tabletops and walls—remnants of four decades of painting there. “Well, this thing looks terrible,” Garabedian says, amused, looking at one image, “…but this is pretty good. I guess I’ve done a lot.”
The new exhibition at L.A. Louver pays a special tribute to the “idiosyncratic and compelling” art of Charles Garabedian, one of the best known Los Angeles artists, who sadly passed away last year at the age of 93. I first encountered Garabedian’s work decades ago and I was immediately amazed by his ability to evoke the spirit of Greek tragedies in monumental paintings inspired by Homer’s epics. There is something tragic yet naïve about his 1991 painting Study for the Illiad, populated by endearingly clumsy naked figures of men and women: standing, stumbling, falling, and laying down.
Ever since the avant garde went the way of silent movies, many of the most interesting artists of the last century have cast themselves as lone wolves — solitary souls whose genius is tied to the freedom that comes with being a go-it-alone misfit.