Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: Armenian Artists

November 12, 2018

Select Armenian Artists from the Gerard L. Cafesjian Collection

I first met Gerard L. Cafesjian when he reached out to inform me of his interest in Armenian artists, should we come across them any of their works. I replied ignorantly, that I wasn’t familiar with any Armenian artists and that he probably wouldn’t find any in our auctions. In further discussing the types of works we generally present here at LAMA, Mr. Cafesjian asked me if I ever see works by John Altoon or Arshile Gorky. Of course, I said, they will always be artists who peak my interest. Well then, he explained, you do know Armenian artists.

John Altoon, Untitled (from Hyperion Series)1963-1964
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

For over 60 years Mr. Cafesjian was an avid art collector and amassed an extensive and prestigious body of work. Upon first traveling to Armenia, Mr. Cafesjian became very interested in the artistic legacy of his parents’ home country. In addition to his many other Armenian development initiatives, Mr. Cafesjian sponsored the creation of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts in Yerevan, in 2009. By facilitating the museum’s acquisition of its world-class collection, Mr. Cafesjian hoped to embolden the rich tradition of Armenian artistic expression and to encourage the nation’s next generation of artists. Mr. Cafesjian’s personal collection reflects his pride in this heritage and features a number of works by prominent Armenian and Armenian-American artists including John Altoon, Martiros Sarian, Charles Garabedian, and Edward Avedisian.

Martiros Sarian, Untitled (Vase with Flowers)1949
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

As a member of the notorious Ferus group, John Altoon is often remembered for his outsized personality.  Over the course of his short career, Altoon produced evocative and irreverent work that captured his fantasies and dreams. Not surprisingly, Altoon was highly influenced by Surrealism. Like many of his contemporaries, Altoon’s works reflect his early forays into commercial illustration. While works such as Frog and Princess Series #14 (1968) are comical and sexually explicit, Untitled (1963-1964) and Untitled (1965) are more experimental. The Hyperion series, to which Untitled (1963-1964) belongs, features biomorphic forms that give way to a soft sensuality. Here, Altoon’s “own version artistic madness” blossoms into a sort of pulsating psychedelia.

Edward Avedisian, Sunkist on the West Side Highway1960
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Trained at the Moscow School of Arts, Martiros Sarian was heavily influenced by the work of Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse. In Sarian’s opinion, their crisp color fields and simple lines, allowed for greater artistic ingenuity by stressing imagination rather than imitation. Inspired by his extended journey throughout the Middle East (1910-1914), Sarain not only adopted Persian motifs but began focusing his practice on sensuous landscapes and street scenes. After devoting the following five years to Armenian refugee relief efforts, Sarian settled in Yerevan in 1921. While involved with a variety of academic and artistic institutions there, his work began to reflect a patriotic zeal. Despite being honored on several occasions by the Soviet state, Sarian’s most outspoken critics condemned his “bourgeois francophilia.” Following Khrushchev’s ascension however, general attitudes towards his “artistic formalism” relaxed. Sarian’s many landscapes, floral still life’s, and portraits that followed the regime shift,  emphasize the bright and harmonious character of Armenia, its people, and its culture. Today Sarian is recognized as a pioneer of the modern Armenian school of painting.

Charles Garabedian, Untitled1981
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Born to Armenian parents in 1923, Charles Garabedian moved to Los Angeles as a young boy. After pursuing an education in history, Garabedian came to painting in his forties. The artist became fascinated by Greek and Asian symbolism and was soon recognized for his signature depictions of  classical characters and epic narratives. With a deep fondness for legends and myths, Garabedian rendered his familiar subjects with bright and energized colors. According to critic David Pagel, the artist lovingly supplied “user-friendly pictures” of “archetypal stories.” Garbedian never attracted the same popular visibility of friends such as Ed Moses, but he was respected as “an artist’s artist” within the LA painting circuit. While noted for their artistic independence, Garbedian’s works are above all else distinguished by their humanism and empathy.

During the 1960s, Edward Avedisian became one of the youngest artists to attract critical acclaim for his new brand of Minimalism. After graduating from Tufts and moving to New York City, his work quickly grew popular among galleries. Between 1958 and 1963 the artist was featured in six solo shows. The Whitney highlighted Avedisian in four annual shows and in 1965 his work was included in MoMA’s famous Op Art exhibition, The Responsive Eye. While Avedisian’s style shifted dramatically and permanently with his retreat to upstate New York in the mid-1970s, Sunkist on the West Side Highway (1960) and Untitled (1965) are quintessential works from the bright moment in his career when Avedisian’s unique blend of “pop playfulness, color field cool and high formalism” dazzled critics and laymen alike.


Lot 264
John  Altoon
Untitled (from Hyperion Series)
Oil on canvas
Retains Edward Thorp Gallery and Goldeen labels canvas stretcher verso
Canvas: 56.25″ x 60.125″; Frame: 57.375″ x 61.125″

Estimate: $40,000 – 60,000
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Lot 278
Edward Avedisian
Sunkist on the West Side Highway
Acrylic on canvas
Signed and titled canvas stretcher verso; retains unknown information label canvas stretcher verso
Canvas: 72.375″ x 72.125″; Frame: 73.5″ x 73.25″
Provenance:  William Rubin; Property of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford, California; Bonhams & Butterfields, San Francisco, California, May 7, 2006, lot 6063

Estimate: $2,000 – 3,000
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Lot 267
Martiros Sarian
Untitled (Vase with Flowers)
Oil on panel
Signed and dated lower right edge of panel
Panel: 16″ x 12″; Frame: 20.25″ x 16.25″

Estimate: $15,000 – 20,000
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

Lot 273
Charles  Garabedian
Pencil on paper
Initialed and dated lower right edge of sheet; retains Holly Solomon Gallery, L.A. Louver Gallery, Tortue Gallery, and Hirschl & Adler Modern labels frame verso
Sheet: 30″ x 20.125″; Frame: 34.625″ x 24.875″
Provenance:  L.A. Louver Gallery, Venice, California; Tortue Gallery, Santa Monica, California; Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York, New York; Holly Solomon Gallery, New York, New York; Bonhams, Los Angeles, California, November 5, 2006, lot 253

Estimate: $2,000 – 3,000
November 18, 2018 Auction, The Collection of Gerard L. Cafesjian

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