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Art Notes: Currier Museum Hosts Varujan Boghosian

  • Varujan Boghosian, at his home in Hanover, N.H., on March, 20, 2015. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Varujan Boghosian, artist and Dartmouth professor of studio art. Currently has show at Big Town gallery in Rochester. Boghosian was in his studio in White River Junction, Vt., on March,5, 2015. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "The Fall of Icarus," a collage by Varujan Boghosian, is on view at the Currier Museum of Art as part of "The Curious Magic of Varujan Boghosian," a retrospective of the Hanover artist's work.

  • "Above and Below," a collage by Hanover artist Varujan Boghosian, is on view at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hanover artist Varujan Boghosian is wandering through a gallery in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, where a just-opened retrospective, “The Curious Magic of Varujan Boghosian,” is on view until Sept. 4. There are some 60 works in all. The majority are on loan from Boghosian himself, with the remaining works coming from both the Currier and private collectors.

His preferred medium, the one that made his artistic reputation, is the collage, with the assemblage a close second.

Boghosian’s work emerged from pre-World War II Dadaism and Surrealism and in some ways seemed to anticipate the conceptualism of the 1960s and 1970s. But his art is sui generis.

He has the uncanny knack of juxtaposing seemingly unrelated ideas or objects in such a way that their pairing seems inevitable, with the irrefutable logic of dreams.

As with all of Boghosian’s work, there is a story behind each piece.

He leads the way to one of the earliest works in the show, a 1954 black-and-white drawing of the Spanish Armada, titled Seascape, which is composed of thousands of infinitesimal dots made with a fine-nibbed Croquil pen. It was such an arduous, painstaking task that as a result he developed trigger thumb, a debilitating inflammatory condition that inhibits movement of the fingers.

Nonetheless, he said, looking at it: “My masterpiece!”

Then there’s the misshapen rotary phone that Boghosian found in a Vermont junk shop. It was on a counter, its plastic so melted and blistered as a result of a fire that it was only just recognizable as a phone.

Boghosian, who has a passion for collecting life’s flotsam and jetsam, the scraps that float past us, are found underfoot or shoved into boxes and attics, asked whether he could buy it. The owner of the shop let it go — for $90.

Never mind the price, Boghosian said: “What was so exciting is that he was able and willing to part with it!”

He looks fondly at the phone, and pauses. “It’s very Dada.”

As are a number of objects in the show. In one assemblage, Boghosian fused two objects he’d acquired independent of each other. The first was a well-used artist’s palette, spattered with dribs and trickles of paint, and the second, a wooden decoy duck, also spattered, beak to tail, with paint.

They are shown one above the other, the palette on a column overhanging the duck. It appears as if the paint dribbled from the palette onto the duck; or, as if the artist had overindulged the drip method.

Its title? Pollock Paints A Duck.

Translating Boghosian’s language of visual and verbal puns and conceits into words illustrates some of the difficulty in writing about his art.

It’s like trying to articulate how and why some of the 20th century’s most memorable Surrealist imagery — by such artists as Dali, Magritte and Klee — elicits the “Aha!” or “I get it” reactions that they do, said the exhibition’s curator Kurt Sundstrom.

“If you have to explain Surrealism you kill it,” he said.

Born and raised in Connecticut to Armenian parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, Boghosian, who turns 91 later this month, taught in Dartmouth College’s studio art department for 27 years, retiring in 1995. His works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum and the Whitney Museum in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and the DeCordova Museum in Massachusetts, among others.

Boghosian has at his fingertips a wealth of knowledge and allusions, to literature, music, art, history, science, Greek myth, you name it, which he brings to bear in his art. But he does it lightly, even glancingly. It’s not necessary to understand the allusions to appreciate his work, but if you do, the work deepens.

“One of the things that’s rare about Varujan that you don’t see in a lot of work today is, it’s thoughtful, it demands viewer attention,” said Sundstrom. “He’s not a populist artist. He’s not out there trying to sell everything. He’s just doing his thing, which he does better than anybody else.”

Boghosian stops in front of a work that pays homage to a friend, the New England painter and printer Michael Mazur, who died in 2009.

Before his death, Boghosian asked Mazur for his artist’s apron, which he tacked to a rough-looking wooden board. Into the apron’s pocket he crammed brushes stiff with paint. Below the apron he placed an artist’s palette that bears the marks of years of smudged paint. (He found the brushes and palette separately.)

After studying it for a while, up close and at a distance, you realize that Boghosian has, in effect, resurrected Mazur. There’s a corporality to the apron, brushes and palette that evoke the man.

“It’s not a portrait of his friend, but it’s a portrait. You almost feel his presence,” Sundstrom said.

Boghosian has a trove of objects at home in Hanover. Sometimes they sit there for years before he figures out how to use them; sometimes he puts objects together and they don’t gel; and sometimes he sees objects together and, suddenly, they work.

Asked a chicken or egg question — which comes first, the object or the idea — Boghosian thinks for a moment. “In most cases the object defines the work,” he said.

“The Curious Magic of Varujan Boghosian” continues at the Currier Museum of Art through Sept. 4. For information go to currier.org.

Openings and Receptions

The Aidron Duckworth Museum in Meriden is now exhibiting the work of two artists, Laura Moriarty and Ernest Montenegro. Claremont artist Montenegro will show “flatmensquared,” a series of metallic sculptures, both on the museum grounds and in the building itself. Moriarty exhibits works on paper, and painted sculpture in “Down into the Deep.” Both shows continue through July 23.

Now on view at the Library Arts Center in Newport is the annual “Selections” show of the best of the 2016 Regional Juried exhibition.

The featured artists are: Carmela Azzaro, Christine R. Hawkins, Ali Keller, Susan Lawrence, Laura Morrison, Richard Stockwell, Patricia Sweet-MacDonald and Tara Van Meter. The show is up through July 28.

Ongoing

ArtisTree Gallery, Pomfret. “The Syrian Experience as Art,” a traveling exhibition of work by 11 Syrian artists reflecting on their country’s civil war and refugee crisis, continues through June 24.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. An exhibition of photographs by Rosamond Purcell, the Boston writer and photographer, runs through July 23. Prints and sculpture by the late Hugh Townley are on view through Sept. 10.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “These Green Mountains,” an exhibition of work by Vermont artists and artisans, ends Saturday.

Center for the Arts, Lake Sunapee. The CFA sponsors three exhibitions throughout the Lake Sunapee region. An exhibition of landscape photography by James Mudie and photographs of flowers by Richard Gulezian is on view in the Lake Sunapee Bank’s micro gallery. Mary Beth Westward exhibits landscapes at Whipple Hall in New London. The second annual Center for the Arts exhibition, featuring oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings, as well as drawings and mixed media, is on view at the New London Inn. All three shows end July 29.

Cider Hill Art Gallery, Windsor. Cider Hill is open for the season with exhibitions of sculpture, painting and environmental installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith, the Mythmakers and Gary Milek.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. The Betty Grant Gallery at the Converse Free Library in Lyme features a show of artwork by students from the Lyme School, through next Thursday. A reception is planned for Wednesday, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. “Shedding Light on the Northern Forest,” a show of paintings by Kathleen Kolb with poetry by Verandah Porche, is on view in the Endoscopy Hallway Gallery, Level 4, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, through June.

Also on view at the hospital are: the annual employee and volunteer art show; paintings by Helen Shulman and Annette Jaret; photographs by Ron Levenson and oils and watercolors by Patricia Sweet-MacDonald.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. There are three shows currently on view: “Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros,” a show of more than 80 paintings on the subject of romantic and sexual love; “Ready. Fire! Aim,” a collaboration between the foundation and Burlington City Arts; and a solo show by David Shrigley. All run through Nov. 26.

Hopkins Center, Hanover. The Dartmouth Department of Studio Art ends the year with an exhibition of work by 19 graduating art majors in the Hopkins Center’s Jaffe-Friede and Strauss galleries and in the Nearburg Gallery and Arts Forum at the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Through Sunday.

Howe Library, Hanover. The art work of Stephanie Gordon, who teaches art at Hanover High School, is featured in the exhibition “80 Degrees: Encaustic Paintings..” The show runs through Aug. 2.

League of N.H. Craftsmen Hanover Fine Craft Gallery. The gallery exhibits works by jeweler Deirdre Donnelly and fiber artist Tarja Cockell through June.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, White River Junction. The gallery, now relocated to 49 South Main St., exhibits the work of Elizabeth Mayor through July 6. See also Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, where Mayor also has a show.

Norwich Public Library. Art work by elementary school students from Cornish, Woodstock, Lyme, Enfield, Unity, Thetford, Canaan, Norwich, Lempster, Fairlee, Lebanon, West Fairlee, Windsor, White River Junction and Hartland is on view through June.

OSHER at Dartmouth, Hanover. Margaret Sheehan and Cindy Heath exhibit fiber art through June 28.

Philip Read Memorial Library, Plainfield. Prints by East Barnard artist Sabra Field are on view through July 1.

Roth Center, Hanover. Artist and textile designer Shari Boraz shows her works in “Continuing Explorations in Fiber” through Sunday.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. “Frances & Friends,” an exhibition of fiber crafts, paintings, photographs, and drawings by six South Royalton-area artists is up is through July 14.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. Black-and-white woodcuts, and handmade wooden serving spoons made by Norwich farmer, writer and artist Suzanne Lupien, are on view, in addition to the jewelry of Stacy Hopkins.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. An exhibit of large-scale, multi-media constructions by Brooklyn artist Katie Bell, who was a 2016 Saint-Gaudens Fellow, is in the Picture Gallery through July 16. There will be a reception on June 24, from 4:30 to 6 p.m.; Bell will give a talk at 5 p.m.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art generally ends when foliage season does, but 80 percent of the show is still on view. “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edythe Wright, is on view at the King Farm. For more information, go to sculpturefest.org.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. Elizabeth Mayor, one of the founders of AVA Gallery and Art Center and a well-known printmaker, shows work. There will be a reception on July 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. The show runs through July 31.

White River Gallery, South Royalton. W. David Powell, of Underhill, Vt., shows his work in the exhibition “The Golden Era of the New Dawn.” Through July 1.

Zollikofer Gallery, Hotel Coolidge, White River Junction. The “God & Pony Show” brings together prints by Underhill, Vt., artist W. David Powell and the mixed-media collages of Deluxe Unlimited, the nom d’art of Corinth native Ben Peberdy.

Nicola Smith can be reached at nsmith@vnews.com.