Entrance: New Art From Post-Soviet Armenia | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Entrance: New Art From Post-Soviet Armenia 

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Curated by Kathryn Hixson, this show of 44 works by Armenian artists, mostly paintings, encompasses a wide range of modern styles, including abstract expressionism and a Magritte-like surrealism. The most interesting pieces also incorporate Armenian content. Armenia converted to Christianity in the fourth century, and several painters appear to be influenced by its long tradition of manuscript illumination. At the center of Arthur Sarkissian's Christmas #1 is a traditional Nativity image, copied from an early Flemish oil painting but silk-screened in purple. Fragments of ornate frame designs are silk-screened on the sides, and then everything is covered with a rainbow of smeared colors that creates an otherworldly aura; the diverse parts suggest worlds in collision, our messy modern era threatening to obliterate traditional certitudes. Sarkis Hamalbashian's diptych The Meeting implies an even wilder collision: among its figures are two peasant women embracing, an angel, sheep, and men in a wig, a turban, and a Russian-style hat. This cross-cultural layering--rendered in thick lines and dense, earthy colors--is a mix of the mundane and the divine that suggests acceptance of life's diversity. Vicki Hovanessian Contemporary Art, 114 W. Kinzie, second floor, through August 31. Hours are 1 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday; 312-329-1735.

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