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Genocide Memorials: Symbolism, Ritual Use, and Meaning

Genocide Memorials: Symbolism, Ritual Use, and Meaning

This year, April 24 falls on Easter Sunday, a coincidence that is symbolically significant, at once tragic and hopeful. Naturally, the confluence also presents scheduling difficulties for many members of the Armenian community. In recognition of that fact, the commemoration program at the Genocide memorial in Montebello, California, for example, will take place the day before, on April 23rd.

April 26th, 2011

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The Future of the Past: Toward the Preservation of Armenian Manuscripts

The Future of the Past: Toward the Preservation of Armenian Manuscripts

On January 19, 2011, the University of California, Los Angeles hosted a lecture by UC Davis Art History Professor Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh, entitled “Heritage in Conflict: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript.” Watenpaugh’s lecture focused on the conflict surrounding the seven detached leaves of Canon Tables belonging to the Zeytʿun Gospels, which recently resurfaced after their mysterious disappearance half a century ago. In 1994, these missing pages were loaned by an anonymous collector to the Morgan Library in New York for a public exhibition. The same year, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles claimed to have legally acquired the Canon Tables – presumably from the same unnamed collector – for an unclosed sum of money. Last year, the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed a lawsuit against the J. Paul Getty Museum challenging its ownership of the Canon Tables and demanding their return. The Canon Tables were separated from the original Zeyt’un Gospels, currently housed in the Maštoc’ Matenadaran (Ms. 10450) in Yerevan Armenia, during the Armenian Genocide.

February 25th, 2011

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Critics Forum: The Year That Was (Not)

Critics Forum: The Year That Was (Not)

Hard to believe, but for the first nine months of the past year, Armenian theater in Southern California practically did not exist. It seemed as if all its key producers – aside from the Ardavazt Theater Company, which revived a pair of one-acts – had decided to stage … their own disappearance. Indeed, finding an Armenian play proved about as likely as encountering a unicorn.

December 30th, 2010

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Western Armenian in Peril: UNESCO’s Recognition and the Question of Contemporary Literature in the Exilic Language

Western Armenian in Peril: UNESCO’s Recognition and the Question of Contemporary Literature in the Exilic Language

In February of this year, Western Armenian joined UNESCO’s online Atlas of World Languages in Danger1, earning the “definitely” status within the list’s degrees of endangerment. Out of the five-tier spectrum that ranges from “vulnerable” to “extinct,” “definitely endangered” refers to a language that children no longer learn as their mother tongue at home. The degrees of endangerment, which measure the diminishing vitality of vulnerable languages, are established fundamentally on the basis of a language’s intergenerational transmission, among other factors such as absolute number of speakers or proportion of usage within the total population. A language is considered extinct when, after a period of non-transmission, it has no more speakers.

August 4th, 2010

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The Forging of an Artistic Identity: A Gorky Retrospective

The Forging of an Artistic Identity: A Gorky Retrospective

Los Angeles is the proud recipient of the final installment of the traveling exhibition, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective. The exhibition began at the Philadelphia Museum of Art before moving on to the Tate Modern in London and is now appearing at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It will remain at MOCA’s downtown location on Grand Avenue, across the street from the Disney Concert Hall, until September 20, 2010. The show was organized by Michael Taylor, curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the College Art Association conference last year when we both presented papers on the panel titled Surrealism au naturel – he on Gorky and I on the Armenian surrealist, Léon Tutundjian.

July 2nd, 2010

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Sara Anjargolian’s Photography: Re-Imagining the Homeland in Diasporic Discourse

Sara Anjargolian’s Photography: Re-Imagining the Homeland in Diasporic Discourse

Los Angeles-based photographer Sara Anjargolian recently exhibited her work in the engaging and interactive exhibition, How We Live. Along with another of Anjargolian’s recent projects, Not Here, How We Live focuses its lens on Armenia; while the earlier traces the realities of poverty, the latter documents the disruptive effects of labor migration on families. Like many other diasporic artists, Anjargolian also uses her medium as a vehicle for coming to terms with the role of Armenia in her own identity. As artist and theorist R. B. Kitaj notes in First Diasporist Manifesto (1989), “Diasporist [art] is an unfolding commentary on its life-source” (p. 31), and as such, it reveals the responses to the condition of being in the diaspora. Therefore, beyond their immediate subject – the portrayal of poverty-stricken families in Armenia living in dire conditions and eking out a living for themselves – Anjargolian’s photographs also engage larger themes concerning the construction of diasporic identity as it relates to Armenia.

May 27th, 2010

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The Task of the Translator: Armenian Golgotha and the Conspiracy of History

The Task of the Translator: Armenian Golgotha and the Conspiracy of History

A film about the Armenian Genocide, Ravished Armenia, was recently screened in Pasadena’s Armenian Center. The film, directed by Eric Nazarian, is thought to be the first about the Genocide made in the United States.

April 29th, 2010

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Disregarding the Diaspora’s Cultural Production?

Disregarding the Diaspora’s Cultural Production?

In 2008, the Republic of Armenia announced the establishment of the Diaspora Ministry. Since then, this newly established governmental department has been implementing its primary mission, furthering the development of economic, social, and cultural ties between Armenia and the diaspora.

March 26th, 2010

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Soaring Satire: The Best of Theater In 2009

Soaring Satire: The Best of Theater In 2009

This year’s trend in Armenian theater had to be satire, given that it seemed to thread virtually every significant production of the past 12 months. It appeared in both Armenian- and English-language scripts, in original scripts and revivals of classic scripts, and it served as the sign of a maturing theater community that not only entertains its surrounding society, but enlightens it by exposing its follies. Here, I take a look back at the best of these theatrical offerings – the ones that stood out for piercing wit and potency.

December 28th, 2009

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Perennially Transnational: Armenian Literature after the Genocide

Perennially Transnational: Armenian Literature after the Genocide

As a graduate student in Comparative Literature, I recently had the opportunity to present a talk entitled “Post-Genocide Armenian Literature of the Homeland and Diaspora” to students in an Armenian Studies undergraduate seminar at USC.

November 6th, 2009

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Reflections in the Aftermath of an Exhibition

Reflections in the Aftermath of an Exhibition

Earlier this year, I was asked by the sub-committee of the City of Glendale’s officials and community artists to be the Guest Curator for the city’s Annual Commemorative Events exhibition. Three intensive months later, the exhibition, ultimately titled “Man’s Inhumanity to Man: Journey Out of Darkness . . .” opened at the Brand Library Art Galleries on April 4, 2009 and was on view until May 8, 2009.

September 25th, 2009

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Myth and Memoir in Black Dog of Fate

Myth and Memoir in Black Dog of Fate

The winter of 2009 saw the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of Peter Balakian’s award-winning 1997 Black Dog of Fate: A Memoir (Basic Books, NY: 2009). The book bears, on its cover, the additional subtitle, An American Son Uncovers His Armenian Past.

September 18th, 2009

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A Gem in the Rough: The Appreciation of Armenian Art

A Gem in the Rough: The Appreciation of Armenian Art

For the last decade or so, the number of art galleries in Southern California has been steadily growing. A notable addition to the group is Stephanie’s Fine Art Gallery, a bold and innovative gallery specializing in Armenian art. Beyond its unique emphasis on Armenian art, Stephanie’s is particularly distinctive because of the vision of its founder and owner, Linda Stepanyan.

August 7th, 2009

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Critics’ Forum: ‘Truth’ Dazzles as Art and Drama

Critics’ Forum: ‘Truth’ Dazzles as Art and Drama

The title of Vasken Brudian’s latest exhibit, “Of Art and Architecture: A Contemporary Discourse,” which opened on June 19, speaks to the artist’s dual talents. Brudian’s sophisticated art combines hand painting and architectural design, sprinkled with lines from literature. The mixed-media creations that result are coated with sublime colors – for me, the deep reds, haunting blues, and shades of orange take on symbolic significance – and reveal truths among layers that dazzle gradually.

June 26th, 2009

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