Sharon Louden & Hrag Vartanian: Origins

September 4 - October 11, 2019

Opening Reception
September 4, 2019
6:00 - 8:00pm

Sharon Louden & Hrag Vartanian, Origins (installation detail)

signs and symbols is delighted to present Origins, a site-specific, immersive installation by Sharon Louden and Hrag Vartanian, a two-person collaboration between interlocutors who have long been in dialogue. Aluminum, screws, bouncing balls, crystal balls, bungie cords, acrylic paint, volleyballs, monofilament line, temporary tattoos, drones, text, writing, more text, and performance: Origins, a cacophony of media and material rendering an experiential, colorful, reflective environment of line and play opens on Wednesday, September 4, 6-8pm. First conceptualized and collaboratively constructed by Louden and Vartanian in 2018 as part of a residency at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Studio Residency Program, this exhibition marks the first public presentation of the work and the duo’s first major collaboration together.

"The origin of art is rooted in relationships,” intones critic and artistic collaborator Hrag Vartanian, underlining the intimate notion of the work as a manifestation of personal bonds and the bounds of memories which at once literally and figuratively reflect the ‘origins’ of the work as such. He continues, “the ancient Greek historian Pliny suggests art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover's shadow on a wall. Another story tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint the holy man's reflection (or projection) in a pool of water. Both tales emphasize the need to fix a memory from the start, but they also point to the desire to retain a connection to someone special.” Drawing upon artist Sharon Louden’s practice in the polyvalent vagaries of line, Vartanian and Louden’s collaboration presents to the spectator an intimate remembrance, not only of things past, but of the presence of a five year professional and personal relationship, itself serving as analogy of and origin for, as the critic concludes, “a larger investigation into the notion of origins, whether through the lens of family, childhood, ideology, communication systems, or material culture.” The installation utilizes Louden’s classic aluminum she is known for, while combining drawings, two-dimensional work, and writings by Vartanian.

Yielding to a wide range of content and influences in their daily exchange, the duo’s playful environment provides insights into a collaborative friendship, weaving material signifiers of their divergent roles into an embracing mis-en-scene. For this iteration of Origins, Louden and Vartanian expand into performativity, inviting others to expand the bounds of their highly personal dialogue throughout the course of the exhibition. In addition to the installation, Vartanian will curate a “mini-retrospective” of Louden’s works on paper as a creative, curatorial part of the exhibition.

sharon louden is an artist, educator, advocate for artists, editor of the ‘Living and Sustaining a Creative Life’ series of books, and the Artistic Director of the Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution. She graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University School of Art. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues including the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Drawing Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Weisman Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Louden's work is held in major public and private collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, National Gallery of Art, Neuberger Museum of Art, Arkansas Arts Center, Yale University Art Gallery, Weatherspoon Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others. She is also the editor of ‘Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists’ published by Intellect Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. Published in October, 2013, the book is now in its 7th printing. From 2017-2018, Louden was the recipient of the The Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, collaborating with Hrag Vartanian for the first time on this occasion. She lives and works in New York.

hrag vartanian The editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian has an expertise in the intersection of art and politics. He started podcasting regularly in 2016, and last year he launched ‘Art Movements’, which is a weekly audio magazine. Vartanian has curated exhibitions in alternative venues and published in various formats for two decades; in 2017, he began a 10-year project titled ‘Fixed Point Perspective’, which will look at the contemporary legacy of Ottoman studio photography. In April 2018, he created a collaborative installation with artist Sharon Louden at the Mary Sharpe and Walentas Studio Program in Brooklyn, NY. He lives and works in New York.