Armen Edgarian exhibition notice, with his photopainting "Infinity" at the top

Edgarian’s Photopainting Solo Exhibit Coming to La Cañada, California, October 5

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LA CAÑADA, Calif. – In Armenian circles, many know Armen Edgarian as a graphic designer. He has done freelance designing for various departments of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York for several decades, and has prepared the ads and mailings for the new Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Metro Los Angeles chapter. His full-time job is a Financial Publishing Specialist, meaning that he does graphic design production work for a financial company, and he has worked for prestigious firms like the Wall Street Journal Custom Studios and Hearst Magazines. But his heart is in his personal art, and his first solo exhibition of mixed media photographs, called Urban Transitions, opens Saturday, October 5 at Stephanie’s Gallery in La Cañada, California. The TCA Metro Los Angeles chapter is supporting this event.

“Geometric,” by Armen Edgarian

Born in Iran, Edgarian lived in Spain for two years, and came to the US when 22 years old. While he was in Spain, he met an Iranian photojournalist by the name of Bruce Shahidi, who introduced Edgarian to photography by showing him photographs he took in Iran and in places all around the world. Edgarian said that he still has the first photograph Shahidi showed him.

Edgarian majored in photography and computer graphics at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated in 1996. Though he took painting classes, he decided to focus on photography and design, and his photographs in New York were of a more traditional variety. He had participated in two or three group shows. Edgarian exclaimed that “This [present] show is major and life-changing for me! I found my medium and I am going to continue doing it. Hopefully, it will excite people as well who look at this art and see something different.”

Armen Edgarian

Edgarian explained further: “The reason I am having this show is that I moved to Los Angeles. Almost every subject that I have in the show is from Los Angeles. The Los Angeles area is not like New York. It is just suburban houses, with no subjects for me to photograph. So I ended up going around all the new construction sites that are happening in downtown Los Angeles. Most of the subjects are from those boarded up wooden boards around new construction sites where people come and put up posters, and somebody comes and puts up a poster on top of that. Then the building management paints over it or rips it up. This creates subjects for me, and every day I go and try to see what changes and I take pictures.”

“Anchor,” by Armen Edgarian

In this downtown area, Edgarian said, all the advertising for music groups, theaters and events are posted on these walls, and people put graffiti or other posters on it. This becomes his canvas.

Edgarian likes to call what he does now photopainting. He said, “The thing with the posters and the paint, people come and do graffiti. It is just the combination of everything that creates something new. I get really close. I really zoom in to a section of a wall and then photograph that. What happens is that I am getting closer and closer and closer to my subject. Before, I used to take a photograph, let’s say, of a door in the Village or in New York.…Now I get closer and take a picture of the lock that is on the door. This is the comparison. I get closer to those papers, the colorful textures on the wall, the wooden board itself, the paint that the management puts over it so it wouldn’t be an eyesore for the public. Just a combination of everything, it has become this array of colorful and yet beautiful compositions that you pass by and don’t notice. Then you look closely, and you see that there is so much going on.”

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Edgarian first takes a photograph, and then makes digital changes to it. He then uses a process called emulsion transfer to place the digitally prepared image on paper, wood or other substances. First, the files are printed on a transparency film. The ink on this film gets released through a certain chemical to whatever substrate, paper, wood, etc., that you choose, so that the image is now on that object. Edgarian then puts paint, water colors, soft pastels, acrylic, dry lines or chalk on the paper or wood to emphasize the lines or color and give it a bolder, more lively look than just a flat photograph. He said that this gives the image a little more texture, and added, “That is why I don’t frame my work—because I don’t want anything touching it. I want to have that connection between the photo and the viewers, so they can see the little details and the texture created by this transfer and the stuff I add to it.”

“Whisperer,” by Armen Edgarian

He defined his style as follows: “I would say it is more like my way of Expressionism. I don’t know how else to describe it. That is the closest I can come up with. That is what I see and what I interpret, from what I see. … It can be Expressionism; it can be abstract. Sometimes it has to do with just the composition that may be Cubism in some parts. It is a mixture of everything that I have been interested in art, the history of art, in fine arts. Somehow it is coming back to me, the way that I am doing the photography right now. Sometimes I see other photographs, other masters, other painters, I see a little bit of [Wassily] Kandinsky, I see a little bit maybe of [Pablo] Picasso, I see [Joan] Miro, I see touches, subjects and forms. Not that I am exactly copying them. Some compositions are like other photographs but it has turned into my way of doing it.”

“[Aaron] Siskind,” Edgarian said, “was one of my favorite photographers. He photographed ink on the wall, or sometimes just compositions on walls, and then, mainly in black and white. He was a teacher, but he did photography. I see a little bit of that in my work, if it is black and white, if it is just solid things. What I can say is that throughout all these years you look at these artists, and it comes out some way in your work. Aha, it looks a little bit like that, it looks a little bit Miro, like this person or that person.”

Some more artists whose work Edgarian likes include Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenberg, Wassily Kandinsky, Francis Bott and Manabu Mabe. Concerning Armenian influences in his work, Edgarian noted that there might be a little of Arshile Gorky.

After noting his influences, Edgarian stressed that “nobody can say that, oh, what I do is unique and nobody else does it. There is no such thing.”

He has previously stated that, “I learned to observe the ordinary and appreciate beauty everywhere…. Every landscape, patterns of light, color, texture and still life simultaneously morphed into an abstract image. It was as as if the whole world had exploded into form, color and design that all began with a photograph. … I am hoping that by photographing what I see with my distinct vision and then transforming the static image with painterly technique, I might create something that is different, deliberate and yet spontaneous. It is every artist’s humble hope that, in this way, the image points to deeper truths and the viewer’s heart opens to the insight!”

The spark for the present exhibition was that, Edgarian said, “I am here and I can’t just produce work and do nothing about it.” There will be between 30 and 35 works exhibited. The sizes are either 30 inches by 40 inches or 24 by 36 inches. The size is determined by the size of the transparency film.

The exhibition has something for everyone, for as its description notes philosophically, the the original subjects of Edgarian’s art encompass “all the elements of light, color and design found in formal art, but existing only for a short time before eroding entirely. Transitions that so powerfully evoke the slide from order to chaos—like life itself!”

For more about Edgarian, see https://www.armenjohnimages.com/. The opening of his exhibition will be at 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. October 5 at Stephanie’s Gallery, located at 466 Foothill Blvd., Unit C, in La Cañada, Flintridge, CA (telephone 818 790-4905, email info@stephaniesgallery.com)

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