Archaeologist, builder, magicianVarujan Boghosian (American, born 1926) holds a deep fascination with objects that evoke the past. As much a collector as an artist, he scours antique shops and flea markets for materials to use in his imaginative sculptures and collages. By cleverly combining and recontextualizing our castoffs—books, cards, toys, figurines, tools, glass, twine—he exploits their expressive power in sly, often poetic ways. Boghosian draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including literature, poetry, music, history, and art. He is particularly enchanted with Greek myths (the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a favorite) as well as the work of iconoclasts like writer James Joyce and artists Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp. The objects presented in this exhibition were selected from a generous donation of thirty works by Boghosian from the collection of Joel and Sherry Mallin. They are supplemented by a small group of loans from the artist.
Explore the Artist’s WorkBoghosian employs three basic strategies in his work: construction, in which he carefully assembles groups of objects; intervention, in which he strategically places one or two small elements on another; and deconstruction, in which he removes or obliterates a portion of an object or a component. His skillful manipulations of disparate objects produce deliberately ambiguous narratives that allow us, the viewer, to create our own associations.
Metal, paper, wood, paint, and glassJames Joyce’s modernist novel Ulysses closes with an epic soliloquy by the promiscuous female character Molly Bloom. Her stream of thought concludes with “first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me . . . and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” In this work, an antique mouth harp hovers over her final words.
Printed and stencil-colored papersBoghosian’s admiration for Marcel Duchamp is expressed in this collage. Both artists share a fascination with the associative power of commonplace objects, a sly wit, and an appreciation of chance encounters. For this work, Boghosian incorporated components from Duchamp’s In the Infinitive (À l’infinitif) (The White Box), which contains reproductions of notes relating to his masterwork The Large Glass.
Imitation stone blocks, ceramic, metal, plaster, wire, thread, paper, paint, and woodBoghosian often draws on several sources of inspiration in a single work. This assemblage calls to mind two mythological subjects: the flight of Eurydice from an unwanted suitor that results in her death from a snakebite; and the messenger god Mercury, who guides souls to the underworld. Boghosian’s placement of a butterfly on the ankle of a detached leg suggests Mercury’s winged sandals.
Charcoal on paper, canvas, imitation stone blocks, and glassTo create this work, Boghosian took a charcoal portrait drawing he found and erased everything except for a single eye. Eyes often appear in his work, conjuring a range of possible interpretations, such as heightening self-awareness in the act of looking by returning the viewer’s gaze or symbolizing a “window to the soul.”
About the ArtistThe son of Armenian immigrants, Varujan Boghosian was born in New Britain, Connecticut, in 1926. He served in World War II and studied art at Yale University. In the early 1960s he showed his work at the legendary Stable Gallery, a showcase for emerging artists including Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. Boghosian later enjoyed a long relationship with Marcel Duchamp’s American dealer Arne Ekstrom, who was known for his interest in connections between art and literature. Boghosian’s prestigious awards include a Fulbright grant to study in Italy (1953), artist residencies at the American Academy in Rome (1966–67 and 1975), and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship (1985). His work can be found in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others. From 1968 to 1996, Boghosian was a professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he continues to live and work today.
Image above: Varujan Boghosian in his studio, 2017. Photo by Heidi Boghosian