Adrienne Der Marderosian, “Between the Measure of Time,” 3 ½” x 7 ¾”, (Digital Photo), 2015

Vantage Points: Four Diasporan Artists on View at the Sheen Center


NEW YORK — Under the leadership of its dynamic Director of Programming Victoria Hanavan, the Sheen Center on Bleeker Street is fast becoming a destination point for the arts in New York City, be it for theater, opera or art. Its intimate Janet Hennessey Dilenschneider Gallery has also stepped up its game of late, including the recent 2024 solo show “Eternal Threads” which featured Syrian-born artist Kevork Mourad’s large fantastical mixed media on fabric constructions.

Osheen Harruthoonyan “Black-Garden”

Hanavan has also enlisted Mourad’s help as a curator and if the current exhibition, “Vantage Points,” is any indication, the results show promise. Mourad wanted to display the resiliency of these artists who use different media to situate themselves vis-à-vis their positioning in the world: “Celebrating a diaspora of creativity, these four artists craft narratives that honor their home countries and ancestors, even in the distant echoes of foreign lands, Mourad explains: “From the vivid brushstrokes of the painter to the photographer’s lens capturing the fleeting moment, to the sculptor molding tales from cardboard to the collage artist piecing together memories, each artwork becomes a tribute to the enduring spirit of belonging.” The curator presents four artists who filter the world through their own particular lens with grace and candor. Mourad gave each one an intimate corner of the gallery to show off a few key works. As he relates: “These four visionary creators delve deep into the respective histories of their ancestors, looking back through the lens of their current vantage point.”

Lebanese-Palestinian Sumayyah Samaha has been exhibiting her work for years at leading galleries such as 22 Wooster Gallery and Leila Heller. Samaha has received numerous awards, including grants from The Pollock Krasner Foundation, and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation. Her three untitled oil on canvas paintings on display here—all bright, colorful medium sized works—recall Calder and de Kooning with a hint of Picasso, but their almost zoomorphic forms come together in a wholly original way. In the work pictured here, a deep red tubular creation rises upwards and opens into a sunflower-like creation in the upper right-hand corner of the canvas. In the two other untitled works on display, Samaha mutes her colors and employs a remarkable variety of browns and ochres. In the middle painting, a strategically placed pool of sky-blue draws attention away from the center of the canvas which once again displays a rich affinity for crimson and bright reds.

Sumayyah Samaha “Untitled” 1983

Chinese-American sculptor Warren King uses large slabs of dark brown cardboard which he slices and forms into almost life-size depictions of a warrior or “Lion Dancer,” and in another work, “Chess Players at Columbus Park,” staining them in dark brown ink. His three sculptures all display the robust, muscular work of an experienced artist comfortable with working in three dimensions. “The Distance We’ve Travelled” most closely refers back to his own parents’ experience as immigrants from Taiwan and mainland China. King creates his work by slicing the cardboard into elegant, powerful cylindrical forms that recall the cubist paintings of Braque. The finely sculpted wood takes on almost lifelike form, and the viewer immediately relates to their palpable energy—they are unique and ready for prime time. A recipient of the 2023 Alex J. Ettl Grant from The National Sculpture Society, King is a welcome discovery.

Armenian-American artist Adrienne Der Marderosian, presents paired work from two series: “Traces of Memory” and “Tattoo Trails.” In “Tattoo Trails,” the more enigmatic of the two series, ghost-like images of a solitary figure travel superimposed over what appear to be Scandinavian or Baltic maps. In “Passage” Der Marderosian presents the map as is, using the green (land) and blue (ocean) to fill in the empty figure’s outline. She however strips her second photograph “Between the Measure of Time” of color, providing an albino version of the figure in question. These elegantly printed digital photos mounted on dibond leave the viewer wondering who the artist’s mysterious outlined figures might be. A ghost? A wanted criminal? In actuality, they refer back to her family history during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 when her grandparents were forced to flee their historic homelands for the rest of the Middle East and eventually settle in the West. As Der Marderosian explains “in Tattoo Trails…isolated figures populate an unknown landscape, symbolizing the uncertain journey that refugees often navigate.” The tattoo concept also resonates with the fact that many Armenian women were tattooed as chattel during the Armenian Genocide.

Canadian artist Osheen Harruthoonyan’s three sublime black-and-white photos round out “Vantage Points.” Often compared to the great Japanese photographers Yamamoto Masao et Hiroshi Sugimoto, the mid-career Harruthoonyan uses his own personally patented darkroom process to lend his selenium toned silver gelatin prints an eerie quality that seems to almost reverse their white and black tones. Harruthoonyan’s works belong in major collections around the world and he was included in the important London Museum in Ontario’s 2019 exhibition “RESOLUTION: A Century of Photographic Art,” which brought together the hundred most important Canadian photographers of the past century.

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Harruthoonyan’s work can roughly be divided between portraiture or pictures of people taken from old photos from his personal collection, and his otherworldly studies of nature and the stars. Here, “Black Garden” and “Black Mirror” (both 25” by 25”) were shot in Artsakh, a historically Armenian region arbitrarily placed inside Azerbaijan by Stalin and recently ethnically cleansed of its Armenian population by the dictator Ilham Alivey. His third work currently on display, “Tree of Garni” spreads its black branches out as if conjured by the witches in Macbeth as part of some eerie pagan ritual. These three works alone provide reason enough to visit the East Village Sheen Center, where Mourad has harmoniously brought together four talented artists from around the world.

“Vantage Points” will run through March 31 at The Sheen Center, 18 Bleeker Street, New York, NY 10012.


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