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The Critical Corner

Martin Barooshian Retrospective at ALMA

By Gina Ann Hablanian
May 15, 2006


Barooshian Detail
Barooshian's Mythistorima II
New York artist Martin Barooshian's relocation to his home-state Massachusetts is being commemorated by a retrospective of his work at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Spanning over half a century (1956-2006), Barooshian's body of work, like that of many artists, passes through definable periods, yet his work has a distinct continuum. Traces from Greek mythology merge or reappear in altered form to be further explored. Vividly colored roosters, disappearing Cheshire cats with leonine faces, and storybook Alices, re-create a wonderland of their own.

Barooshian is not an artist who alleviates his angst by dabbing paint on canvas; immediate and short-lived gratification is not his destination. As a superior printmaker, he brings precision and meticulous attention to color nuance to bear on every inch of canvas. In his latest paintings, which take on a geometric symmetry rendered in neo-pointillism, the impression is that each dot was weighed, balanced, and analyzed. While the overall effect is a vibrant scintillation, it suggests an amazing internalization of push-pull or complementary color theory, as evidenced in his canvases titled `The Four Seasons' and `Colors, Primary, Secondary.'

There is no question that Barooshian's early work shows some influence by Arshille Gorky and his contemporaries. Yet already in the 1960s these `Gardens of erotic delights' reflect Barooshian's intense attention to detail and artistic control. His amorphous biomorphic forms, where the animal and vegetable worlds merge into one, are superimposed by cubistic elements, and influenced by his book-illustration prints, such as the `Alice in Wonderland' series.

In the 1970s one sees the emergence of a clear individual style with strong surreal tendencies. This is an exciting period, perhaps the artist's first signature period. `Vision 15,' titled also `Enigma of the Armenian Sphinx' (48 x 40 inch oil on canvas with gold leaf), is indeed a vision. One might state that all of Barooshian's works are visions, from exotic birds in small color intaglio etchings to larger paintings.

Some of the same images appear in the 1990s, such as the more spaceous and less content-packed `The Dream,' where flying men, face segments, lotus blossoms, and vertebrae decorated with flowers, float among amoeboid segmented bodies, and a woman with smooth young face and muscular body. Sounds bizarre? Not really. The overall impression is that this artist is a seeker of beauty and harmony.

The works of the 2000s are no less enticing. The merging of ideas is evident, such as in `Mardi Gras in New Orleans,' a small painting (20 x 15 inch) with its lush painterly quality and flat geometric squares. Nor is the work all brow-imposed eroticism. There is humor in a work such as the `Boogie Woogie' dancers (2006); and re-emerging are the storybook creatures in a pointillism such as `The Cat, Bird, and Duck' (2003) a 20 x 20 inch piece. `Bach, Beethoven, and Shubert' does not clearly define the music or the masters (fugue, symphony, or Lieder?), one is left wondering why the names within the work, except as the artist's license to expose his skill and give homage to his favorite composers. In general these pointillist-like works such as `Dada Swing' and `Hip Hop/Hip Hop' are highly refined. If at first glance these works remind one of classroom geometric coloring exercises, the comparison ends where complexity and interwoven detail begin.

Barooshian's syntesis of acknowledged American painters of the last century is complex. It is deliberate. It is intelligent. In reviewing this retrospective one's overall impression is that an analytical brain is holding the paintbrush.

Barooshian & Wife
Martin and Mary Barooshian
ALMA 5/7/2006

Barooshian, with degrees from the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and Tufts University, a graduate degree from Boston University and further training in Europe (Paris mainly), has won fellowships and awards, and his works are in the permanent collection of Museums such as the Metropolitan and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the Boston MFA, galleries in Washington D.C., and countries such as Armenia, Canada, and India.

What Barooshian needs and should achieve is well-deserved recognition as one of America's outstanding artists of the latter part of the 20th century and beyond.

Martin Barooshian: a 50 Year Retrospective of Paintings and Prints opened on May 5 and continues through May 28, 2006. The public reception on May 7th was attended by close to one hundred individuals. Location: Contemporary Art Gallery (3rd floor), at the Armenian Library & Museum of America, 65 Main Street, Watertown, MA. Tel: 617-926-ALMA (2562).

Ms. Gina Ann Hablanian is the founder of Armenian Women's Artists web site
for AIWA (Armenian International Women's Association, based in MA). She
has been an educator, a writer, and a corporate marketing/product manager.
She can be reached either directly at
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