THE POWER OF WONDER
The Art of Varujan Boghosian
There are three primary stages of engagement with the art of Varujan Boghosian. It starts with delight. We are immediately drawn into the visual impact of the colors and shapes, the subjects, and the overall strength of his compositions. This soon gives way to marvel as we begin to think through the potential relationships of his selected images and objects. We find connections, historical and literary, sometimes with the aid of his titles. As the whole coalesces, that is, as the forms and content merge, the universe of the work expands. The magic of Boghosian’s gift takes hold. We’re launched—set off into the realm of wonder. And this is the truly amazing part. By spending time with his work, we get to a place where we increasingly discover his spark and mystery in our own surroundings. His work leads us to a place of enthusiasm and awe for the world. From the mundane to the magnificent, we see it anew. That is the power of wonder.
Boghosian has been doing this for a long time. After his stint in WWII (in the navy) he attended college on the GI Bill (someday we’ll have to research how many artists owe their start to this generous post-war program); graduate school at Yale with Josef Albers soon followed. As he established himself as a full-time artist, he largely abandoned painting. He has said it was not his strength. Instead, he migrated toward the Duchampian end of Surrealist practice. By the 1960s, his work was shown with such artists as Joseph Cornel, Marisol Escobar, Robert Rauschenberg, and Larry Rivers—individuals often associated with the term Neo-Dada. Like his post-painterly comrades, Boghosian turned his back on careful rendering in favor of provocative assemblage.
Now over 90 years old, Boghosian continues to create works uncanny in their beauty and textual intricacy. He relies both on his viewers’ ability to react to the constituent parts of his work and on their willingness to explore the wide range of suggestive possibilities he generates. While knowing how unpredictable our responses may be, the artist nevertheless suggests points of entry through references to mythology, poetry, and modern fiction. Where exactly we go on our interpretive journey, he leaves entirely up to us. In fact, he delights in the knowledge that his work ignites thought in surprising ways.
Those close to the artist know of the twinkle in his eye. Perhaps there is a biological explanation for this—a teary squint or some such thing. I like to believe that it’s the outward “tell” of the magician he is—a physical manifestation revealing that he does indeed have something up his sleeve. With his collages and assemblages, we can bet that our investment of time and energy, our looking and thinking, will be rewarded. Our eyes will take in visual data; the synapses in our brain will fire in unpredictable combinations; and, comfortable with the ultimately indeterminable nature of his work, we will wonder.
John R. Stomberg