Charlie G. Hachadourian

Book to Celebrate Charlie Hachadourian’s ‘(H)earth’

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Born in 1954 in the Bronx New York, Charlie G. Hachadourian lived and created art in the United States and in Armenia for most of his adult life.

“His every visit to Armenia, as to any other place in the world, was a creative and highly personal ‘pilgrimage,’ stemming from the urge to seek and find the truth in life and in art.” (L. Sargsian, 2021.)

“I dig holes and move earth,” Hachadourian said half-jokingly whenever asked about his art.

A humble, approachable, unpretentious human being with an unparalleled sharpness of mind Charlie lived and breathed art in his lifelong quest for truth and knowing.

His most recent work, “Topographies,” constitutes a series of inverted vessels, reliquaries that transport sacred soil. Soil, to him, was more than dead matter; it was a living, breathing entity that holds memories and carries epigenetic code.

“Charlie dug small and large holes in the ground in places of personal as well as historical significance. He poured various types of adhesives into the holes, like gypsum, wax and other materials, which would then adhere to the dirt and form a solid mass. This mass would then be excavated out of the ground and transported elsewhere to be displayed,” said photographer and artist Ara Oshagan about him in 2022.

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Hachadourian invented not only a novel technique in using earth as material for making art. He developed a truly unique approach which explored the depths of an artist’s relationship to site, location, space, and time.

In many of his performative projects, Charlie focused on creating community through a shared experience such as the breaking of bread around a table in a gallery setting, building a tonir (an underground clay oven) in which a traditional lavash bread was baked.

During every one of his performances, including his own wedding ceremony on the peninsula of Lake Sevan in Armenia in 1990, unrelated adults and children became participants engrossed in conversations related or not related to art, faces aglow in the warmth of a fire or the sun, spirits anointed with the aroma of burning wood, earthy flavors of herbs, a misty breeze on a balmy evening. In places far away from their origins, strangers gathered around a “hearth” that transgresses culture, language, ethnicity, age, and rekindles hearts and spirits with the grace of humanity.

Hachadourian’s art, whether creative or re-creative, humbly centers “displaced” human souls, reminds us of the eternal coexistence of the good and the evil, dark and light, of our connection to the earth and the divine.

Charlie’s “Earth Soul” as part of the Shushi Art Project, in 2012

It is the “hearth” of humanity.

An old soul who carried within him centuries-old wisdom, Charlie had his finger on the pulse of the young and the contemporary. He took pride in showing his sculptures in college and university campus galleries and enjoyed the discourse his work created among his young colleagues.

Never expecting praise or recognition for his own work, Charlie devoted a significant part of his professional life to the cultivation and propagation of modern Armenian art in the years immediately following the collapse of the USSR.

As a curator of modern art, Hachdourian had an unparalleled eye for recognizing, identifying, and defining an artist’s work even to the artist. “With a single glance he could explain the intent, the essence, and the importance of the artwork in ways very few professionals can,” said artist Sahak Poghosyan in a radio interview in 2022.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, artists in the newly freed and independent Armenia strove to find their way to the wide-open free world. Hachadourian, in collaboration with the Armenian avant-garde artists, organized and presented to the local and expat community of Yerevan the very first modern art exhibit at the American University of Armenia in 1993. The 11 artists who took part in the “Beyond Idiom” exhibit spoke the language of modern art in their own lexicon.

As Hachadourian explained in 1993: “It was not until many studios were visited and even more works were seen that I began to notice and appreciate the pattern of ethno-centricity, the common thread of a personal alphabet, the individual artist engaged in molding, and restructuring what has now become for him a point of departure, an opportunity to influence and to be influenced, to take active part in an ongoing, ever growing arts exchange…creating their own cultural amalgam, not a borrowed world but a timely foray completely indigenous to Armenia.”

He shared his skills, knowledge, beliefs, and wisdom generously with everyone in his professional and personal circles through the exhibitions he curated, catalogues he published, and conversations and interviews he facilitated. The Charlie Khachadourian Gallery, symbolically located adjacent to the Natural History Museum of Armenia, became the first commercial art establishment for local avantgarde artists in Yerevan in the early 1990s. The gallery operated successfully until 1996. With individual and group exhibits and shows the Charlie Khachadourian Gallery became a destination for Yerevan’s local arts community and for tourists.

Progressive in his outlook both in life and in art, Hachadourian curated the first ever in the history of Armenian art an all-female group show. The exhibit showcased not only visual artists but composers, writers, and textile artists as well.

His life on the earthly realm expired on November 4, 2022. His long-term deteriorating health eventually got the best of Charlie Hachadourian leaving many projects and dreams unrealized.  Charlie will embark on one last pilgrimage this summer to his final resting place in Lake Sevan, Armenia.

A sculpture by Charlie Hachadourian

His family, friends, and colleagues will honor Hachadourian’s memory through a publication of a photobook. A GoFundMe has been created to raise the necessary $10,000 toward the publication (https://gofund.me/20b04310). The family will donate copies of the book to arts libraries at teaching institutions in the US and Armenia.  This monograph is critical in bringing attention to Charlie’s ground-breaking artwork and socially conscious work in building a global Armenian arts community.

Currently titled “Charlie Hachadourian: (H)earth” the book will be in four-colors, 60-80 pages with dozens of photos. It will include interviews with Charlie, curatorial statements, essays about his work, his biography and photos and descriptions of his projects and artwork spanning his lifetime.

 

 

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