Critics’ Forum articles

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.