A tribute exhibition celebrating the life of Charles Garabedian (1923-2016), presents paintings, works on paper and sculptures the he created over six decades. These works are juxtaposed with those by a select group of his contemporaries: John Altoon, Larry Bell, Tony Berlant, William Brice, Vija Celmins, John Chamberlain, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Robert Heinecken, Robert Irwin, John McCracken, John McLaughlin, Ed Moses, Ken Price, Don Suggs, Peter Voulkos and Tom Wudl.
A lover of art history, literature, opera, jazz, horse racing, sports, golf, poker, cigars, Scotch, and later in life, daily visits to Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Santa Monica, Charles Garabedian was beloved both as an artist and a teacher. Described by critic Christopher Knight as “among the best painters Los Angeles has produced,” Garabedian, or “Chas” as he was known by his friends, created paintings that featured awkwardly posed figures or abstractions that spoke to the human condition. Embracing grand themes, his paintings were idiosyncratic and compelling.
The exhibition touches on the wide-ranging subjects and approaches that Garabedian tackled over his lifetime. Early works from the ’60s mark the beginning of his career, with wildly imaginative depictions that reflect popular culture from that era, including Jean Harlow, 1964 and Pinball Baseball, 1966. Towards the late ’60s and early ’70s, nearly eight years out of art school, Garabedian began to break away from literal associations in his works. Abstract sculptures emerged, such as Untitled, 1970, which Garabedian created after seeing an exhibition of Japanese sculpture in 1965. Like many of the Light and Space and Minimalist artists during this time, Garabedian experimented with resin, but unlike his counterparts, utilized the material’s translucency to build representational imagery.
This includes Woman in the Bathroom, 1973, a large-scale resin painting last seen in his 2011 retrospective at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. He also developed a fascination with Greek and Chinese cultures. A book on Chinese gardens held Garabedian’s imagination for several years, which led to a series of paintings that implied a sense of collage like Chinese Mr. Hyde, 1975 and 4, 1976. The largest painting in the exhibition, Study for the Iliad, 1991 (84 x 242 in. [213.4 x 614.7 cm]), illuminates his deep appreciation for the Greek tragedies, as do the paintings on paper The Red Wine Dark Sea, 2011 and Clytemnestra & Iphigenia, 2015.
Beyond providing a look at the six decades of Garabedian’s career, this exhibition serves as a tribute to the artist: his life’s work and the artists he admired for their conviction, dedication to their practice and lifetime achievements.
Ed Moses urged him early on to pursue art, while Vija Celmins was a close friend of Garabedian’s since the ’60s. William Brice was one of Garabedian’s professors at UCLA, and Tom Wudl became a student of Garabedian’s while at UCLA. Richard Diebenkorn was also a UCLA colleague, and when he moved out of his Santa Monica Ocean Park studio (located in a building occupied by other artists including James Turrell), Garabedian took over his unit, which shared a common space with Sam Francis. Apart from the studio, Garabedian fostered lasting friendships with artists of all generations. Sharing a love for the track, Robert Irwin and Garabedian once co- owned race horses, and Don Suggs, along with Robert Heinecken, played poker with Garabedian on a regular basis.
Garabedian highly regarded all the artists in this exhibition, and although they represent a vast range of methodologies and movements, each share a distinct link to Southern California, and have contributed to the thriving environment for art and academia that continues to reverberate here in Los Angeles, and beyond.