ENTERTAINMENT ARTS & CULTURE

L.A. Louver show connects Charles Garabedian with contemporary artists like McLaughlin, Voulkos and Celmins

If “Charles Garabedian and His Contemporaries” were a movie, it would have an amazing cast, a killer script and a director who knew how to get the best out of his team.

At L.A. Louver, the five-room, 18-artist exhibition pays homage to Garabedian, who died last year at 93 after a 60-year career as a painter of profoundly original imagery.

A dozen pieces Garabedian made from 1964 to 2015 — on paper and canvas, in resin and wood, some abstract, most figurative — form the heart of the exhibition, which ranks among the most inspiring I’ve seen in recent years.

The 12 works reveal the breadth and depth — and sheer brilliance — of Garabedian’s genius: to bring visitors face to face with the facts of life and to find, in those nitty-gritty details, redemption from the soul-sucking drudgery of everyday existence.

Joy and happiness and wild fascination are palpable in all of his pieces, especially those that rub shoulders with tragedy, whether it originates in the “Iliad,” the “Oresteia,” a pinball game, a pinup girl or race relations.

Charles Garabedian's “Pinball Baseball,” 1966, collage and flo-paque on paper, 30 inches by 40 inches
Charles Garabedian's “Pinball Baseball,” 1966, collage and flo-paque on paper, 30 inches by 40 inches (Jeff McLane)

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If Garabedian’s 12 works were the only ones in the exhibition, it would be well worth visiting, more than once. They show Garabedian to be a protean creator, an artist whose works play well with one another and with others.

That’s where the works by Garabedian’s contemporaries come in. The lifeblood of the exhibition pulses from his diverse, even disparate bodies of works to theirs — and back again.

The connections among such wildly different artists as John Altoon and John McLaughlin, Robert Heinecken and Robert Irwin, Peter Voulkos and Vija Celmins have nothing to do with superficial appearances, stylistic similarities or shared materials. They run much deeper than that.

To see them is to be alive to some of the finest things in life. That interaction forms the show’s elusive soul, whose expansive presence draws us into the action. 

Tony Berlant's “The Taxco Cafe (#7-1988),” 1988, found metal collage on plywood with steel brads, 110.5 inches by 101.25 inches.
Tony Berlant's “The Taxco Cafe (#7-1988),” 1988, found metal collage on plywood with steel brads, 110.5 inches by 101.25 inches. (Jeff McLane)

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L.A. Louver, 45 N. Venice Blvd., Los Angeles Through April 1; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 822-4955, www.lalouver.com

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