Gallery shows art of St. Francis alum

Koko Hovaguimian, an alumnus of St. Francis High School, is exhibiting his Renaissance Series collection of artwork at Stephanie's Art Gallery in La Ca¿¿ada.

"Typically when I'm painting, I like to work in series. This one was the Renaissance Series," says Hovaguimian of his new collection. "The paintings aren't about the Renaissance, but the ideas that came from it. Revival of art in the city, patrons and families who would support artists and create cultural revivals — creating narratives and storylines that reflect those ideas and trying to tie them into the relevance of today."

The exhibit, which opened last month and runs through Nov. 6, displays 28 original oil paintings by Hovaguimian, 27.

"I had previously done a whole series on musicians, which came from my background in classical music," he says. "That segued into this new idea. I'm trying to see how I can push new work or have some kind of statement about what's going on today, whether in art or music."

Hovaguimian has been exposed to art as a creative outlet since he was young.

His parents moved to the United States 30 years ago from Beirut, <runtime:topic id="PLGEO00000074">Lebanon</runtime:topic>. "My parents are both creative people, which has always been a big influence," he says. "My dad was a chef and my mom was in fashion and design in Lebanon. Painting, music and culinary art was always in our household."

Hovaguimian began painting with a private instructor from Paris at the age of 7, then spent his teenage years studying with a Russian-Armenian artist. "It was good to learn technique and the fundamental basics of painting, but going to architect school was when I really felt like I started pushing my art to new boundaries," he said.

Hovaguimian, who currently lives in <runtime:topic id="PLGEO100100102380000">Los Angeles</runtime:topic>, spent much of his childhood in <runtime:topic id="PLGEO100100102383400">Glendale</runtime:topic> and La Canada. After graduating from St. Francis High School in 2000, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from Woodbury University in <runtime:topic id="PLGEO100100102381100">Burbank</runtime:topic>, then went on to <runtime:topic id="OREDU000097">Columbia University</runtime:topic>, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Advanced Architectural Design. He currently holds a design position for architect Frank Gehry in Los Angeles.

"Though architecture has been my profession, art has always been the foundation of my work," Hovaguimian says. "A lot of architecture has to do with research and analysis, so I'm focusing on developing concepts, then painting those concepts."

Though Hovaguimian's work is regularly on display at Stephanie's, his most recent collection is different than any work he has previously done.

"There are a lot of figures in the paintings, so there are lots of stories there. The work I had done before was really on a darker pallet, and these are completely the opposite. The color saturation was stronger, lots of orange, red, green; that was intentional to juxtapose the previous collection," he said.

"I think the exhibit was a success," Hovaguimian said. "The gallery has always been successful in La Ca¿¿ada. They have serious art collectors and even people who can't buy art [but] who were interested in the work. People understood what I was saying and seeing it in the work. When somebody can understand where it's coming from and then speak with me and get more about what the piece reiterates, and that confirms what they originally saw ¿¿¿ for me, that's a successful show."

Hovaguimian has exhibited his work in various cities, including a sculptural piece in a courtyard in France. A show in Florence next year and one possibly in <runtime:topic id="PLGEO100100800000000">New York</runtime:topic> are both in the works. He has also begun work on his next series.

"I started getting really into geometry and forms in figures, so I'm looking at Baroque architecture. I'm pursuing this idea of taking human figures and creating more curvilinear forms. These are all very abstract concepts, but they're what I think about when I'm painting.

"For me, this was a crucial show," he says of the exhibit at Stephanie's. "I've done a lot of shows in Los Angeles and sold pieces all over the world, but to be able to show in Los Angeles and have a lot of architects come out and see the work, and get good critiques from people who understood the art was a huge deal."

For more information about the artist and his work, including the Renaissance Series, visit Hovaguimian's official website at http://www.atelierkoko.com.

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