Saturday, January 17, 2015

FARRAH KARAPETIAN | Featured on art ltd. magazine

By george melrod
Jan 2015

Farrah Karapetian knows how to orchestrate a memorable image. With its bold theatrical façade, and formally reductive lexicon, her work is shadow play of considerable nuance and complexity, engaging rigorously with issues such as space, scale, surface, narrative, and performance. Yet perhaps the work’s most striking aspect is its timeliness: using photograms—a medium that was pioneered nearly a century ago by Man Ray—Karapetian has created a practice that is distinctly, often startlingly, of the moment. Subjects of her pieces have included illegal immigrants, civil protesters, riot police, and US army veterans.

As a photographer who works sculpturally, without a camera, Karapetian has created a truly interdisciplinary practice. Talk to her about her work, and the topic veers from mark making to ancient Greek pediments and pottery. “Part of what’s fun about the photogram is that it divorces the image or the characters from the context, and relief sculpture does that,” she notes. “So does the amphora—the black and orange pottery that’s just a field of black, and the characters on it. Obviously, there’s more going on in the atmosphere of a photogram, but it’s certainly divorced from its original context and therefore divorced from the documentary. To me, that’s a big part of what the color fields do—they suggest reenactment, they suggest fabrication.”

Born in LA, Karapetian studied photography as an undergrad at Yale, but found her herself instinctively rebelling against the aesthetic that emphasized the purity of the photographic image: “A perfect print, that was not handled physically, and didn’t exhibit its physical nature.” From 2006 to 2008 she attended grad school at UCLA, where her teachers included James Welling, Catherine Opie, and Charles Ray. “I got to UCLA, and they give you this big space, so you’re able to think three-dimensionally, and so all my thoughts about photographs being objects suddenly became realizable,” she recalls. “And I could look at shadows, the way they went on the floor.” She discovered photograms by chance, after a trip to Kosovo, when she banged her hand in frustration on a photo enlarger, and a light went off. Her first large-scale work was made in 2008 and 2009; titled Stowaway, it depicts a U-Haul with a man—presumably an illegal immigrant—standing inside, amid rows of soda bottles. The piece was inspired by reading online that agents at US border crossings used X-rays on trucks to scan for illegal cargo. To create the piece, Karapetian built a transparent mock-up of a truck, added plywood shelves, hired a worker to be her model, then drove to the desert to find a collection of 200 Mexican Coke bottles, finally setting up the scene in front of vertical strips of photosensitive paper. As with all her work, the shoot is just the culmination of an elaborate process of research and preparation that then resolves in a flash (and a rush to get it to a processor to be developed). “The first time a person engages with me in this process, they always laugh,” the artist laughs. “They’re like, ‘That was it!?’”

In Riot Police (2011), she created a tableau in which several silhouetted figures clad in riot gear stand clustered at the left side of a deep purple field, divided into five vertical panels, while a protester lies stretched out at their feet, resolving the almost triangular, classical configuration. It’s a startling scene, its formal asymmetry enunciating the stark asymmetry of power it depicts. In fact, the actors playing the riot police were art world friends, but garbed with helmets and translucent shields, they are sharply convincing. An ensuing work depicts protesters in Egypt, set amid texts from a government pamphlet.

More recently, Karapetian has begun to employ real people’s memories in her practice. After describing her interest in muscle memory and physical communication in a class, one of her students, a veteran, approached her to describe his actions in Iraq. The resulting project used a group of actual US army vets, gripping translucent guns made of resin, to reenact a method of breaching an entry called “stacking up on doors.” Silhouetted against a field of acrid orange, Karapetian’s veterans were deployed around the doorway of LA Louver Gallery, as part of their 2013 “Rogue Wave” show. The same year, Karapetian created another semi-site-specific work—a ruins made of block-like photograms of ice—for OCMA’s California-Pacific Triennial, and a public artwork in Flint, Michigan, relating to that city’s blue collar workforce.

Notably, for all their loaded content, Karapetian’s works do not declare any specific political POV, so much as they present formalized narratives, turning what would normally be portrayed in documentary terms to a fictive reenactment. She explains: “The photograph is conventionally understood as the document of an event; but what happens when the photograph is the event itself? This is something I think about when I’m staging a reenactment in the dark; it’s something I think about when I install a photograph sculpturally, so that the viewer has a life-size experience of an object, a place, or an event. It’s all focused on re-humanizing the photograph, making it manual, hands-on, experiential, and surprising.”

Like a photojournalist, Karapetian seems drawn to troubled places, taking the experience she gleans back to her studio; this winter, she will be traveling to Kabul to create a music video for an Afghan youth rock band. The interest in music coincides with the new body of work she will be showing in January, at Von Lintel Gallery, in Los Angeles. In this case, the muscle memory and performance reenactment were provided by her father, who used to be a drummer. As per her elaborate shadow process, Karapetian created a faux drum set in eerie silhouette, with translucent cymbals, and had her father practice drumming with it at her LA studio. On the walls, a large photogram of her father playing drums shares space with images of female musicians, instruments, and a red flowing curtain. As yet, the final make-up of the show, titled “Stagecraft,” remains to be determined. “I’ve made a lot of work that I’m not going to end up using. I started thinking about stagecraft and spotlights…”she muses. “What interested me most… was really the vulnerability and drive of creative practice.”

art ltd. magazine

Friday, January 16, 2015

FARRAH KARAPETIAN | STAGECRAFT — Opening Reception Sat Jan 17, 6—8

Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to announce Stagecraft, an exhibition of new works by Farrah Karapetian. This will be the artist’s first solo show with the gallery. Comprised of photograms and the band of sculptural negatives built to produce them, Karapetian’s latest series challenges the stability of the photographic image through analogy with staged musical performance and sound.

In this body of work, Karapetian isolates and escalates her investigation of the abstract potential of photography. Just as the production elements of stagecraft underwrite the illusion of theater, photography is the result of multiple acts of fabrication. The photogram can deconstruct photography into its constituent parts - object, photographic paper, light source - but how then an artist pushes these parts defines the artist's concerns. The object in Karapetian’s practice is often a “constructed negative” – transparent in either material (cymbals cast in glass) or form (the armature of a drum kit) – fabricated by the artist and exhibited as sculpture, challenging the notion that a negative is merely a means to an end.

The title of the exhibition also points to the parallels between stage performance and the performative nature of Karapetian’s methods: subjects are invited into the darkroom to reenact postures of music-making and works are installed to interplay in real space as might the components of a band, highlighting the ability of a photograph to both describe and occupy space. Usually the photogram makes a very flat space, a silhouette against a field of color, but Karapetian is interested here in persuading movement and volume from the picture plane. In this setting, the rhythms of object and shadow on paper translate into wavelengths of musical sound; reflection easily interpreted as reverberation. Description aside, much like attending a concert, experiencing Karapetian’s work is best done live.

Karapetian was born in Marin, CA, in 1978. She received a BA from Yale and an MFA from the University of California Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions include the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA; the Torrance Art Museum in Torrance, CA; the UCR/California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA; the Orange County Museum of Art; and the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, CA. Recent grants include the California Community Foundation Mid-Career Artist Fellowship and the Artswriters grant from the Warhol Foundation | Creative Capital. Her work is included in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She lives and works in Los Angeles.





Farrah Karapetian's photograms excavate the memories of her subjects; the camera-less photographic method closely engaging those subjects in the process of their own representation. The constituent parts of the medium are broken down and then reinvented to suit each concept: the installation site becomes the work's frame, for example, while a resin sculpture or performative reenactment becomes the negative. The work threads personal narrative into the public sphere and back again; often siphoning themes of struggle and dissonance through a filter generating unexpected beauty and grace.

Karapetian was born in Marin, CA, in 1978. She received a BA from Yale and an MFA from the University of California Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions include the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA; the Torrance Art Museum in Torrance, CA; the UCR/California Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA; the Orange County Museum of Art; and the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, CA.

Karapetian lives and works in Los Angeles.


2008 MFA University of California, Los Angeles, CA 2000 BA Yale University, New Haven, CT 


2015 The Shape of Sound, Von Lintel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Prone Position, Solo public project for Freeway Studies #2, Inside the Quad, OTIS Ben Maltz 

Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (organized by Meg Linton)

2012 Student Body Politic, Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Representation Cubed, Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, CA 2011 Accessory to Protest, LEADAPRON, Los Angeles, CA

Shadowbox Kamikaze, PØST, Los Angeles, CA

2010 Broken Windows Theory, Kantor Gallery, New York, NY 2009 Lightyear, Sandroni Rey Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Tragic Muse, Sandroni Rey Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2008 Int./Ext., Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA
Shipping Container, Sandroni Rey, Los Angeles, CA 


2014 The Wall in our Heads, Goethe-Institut, Washington, DC (curated by Paul M. Farber) AMBITIOUS, Von Lintel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

The Fifth Wall, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA (curated by Irene Tsatsos) 

Prep School: Prepper & Survivalist Ideologies and Utopian/Dystopian Visions, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (curated by Max Presneill)

Trouble With the Index, California Museum of Photography at UCR ARTSblock, Riverside, CA (curated by Joanna Szupinska-Myers) 

2013 Rogue Wave 2013: 15 Artists from Los Angeles, LA Louver, Venice, CA

2013 California-Pacific Triennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA (curated by

Dan Cameron)

2012 The Black Mirror, Diane Rosenstein Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA (curated by Diane Rosenstein and James Welling)
Don’t the Sun Look Angry at Me: Pictures and Objects from Los Angeles Now, Royale Projects, Indian Wells, CA
Grey Full, Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York, NY (curated by Geoffrey Young) 2011 Major Grey, Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, MA

2010 Session_7_Words, Krabbesholm FourBoxes Gallery, Denmark 

Border Art Biennial 2010 El Paso Museum of Art and Centro Cultural Paso del Norte, El Paso, TX, and Juárez, MX (juried by Rita Gonzalez and Itala Schmelz) 

Two Halves, with RJ Messineo, Artist Curated Projects, Los Angeles, CA (organized by Eve Fowler and Lucas Michaels) 

Lovingly, Rose Peebles, Brand Library, Glendale, CA (curated by Kim Schoen)

Open House | State Secrets, with Mitch McEwen and B.E.A.S.T., Superfront, Los Angeles, CA

Flirtation, Love, Passion, Hate, Separation, PØST, Los Angeles, CA (curated by Calvin Phelps)

Excess | Liquidity, with X | Atelier, Superfront, Los Angeles, CA

2009 Session_7_Words, Am Nuden Da, London, England

Wall as Canvas I, Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, Los Angeles, CA Perception as Object, Monya Rowe Gallery, New York, NY

2008 Imaginary Thing, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO (curated by Peter Eleey)

LA Confidentiel, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Parc Saint-Léger, France (curated by Sandra Patron

and Allyson Spellacy

Something About Rooms and Walls, Superfront, Brookly, NY (curated by Mitch Mcewen)

2005 Critics’ Picks, Black & White Art Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (curated by Lilly Wei and Megan Heuer)

2002 New Photography, SFMOMA Artist's Gallery, San Francisco, CA


2014 California Community Foundation Mid-Career Artist Fellowship

2013 Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation, ARTS WRITERS GRANT PROGRAM 

2012 Center for Cultural Innovation, Investing In Artists Grant, Innovation Category 2012 Artplace, Funding for Flint Public Art Project, Flint, MI

2010 MacDowell Colony, Monadnock, NH, Residency

2009 Wende Museum and Archive of the Cold War, Los Angeles, CA, Residency 2009 Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant | New York, NY

2008 Hoyt Scholarship, Los Angeles, CA

2007 Lillian Levinson Scholarship, Los Angeles, CA 2007 UCLA Fine Arts Travel Grant, Hiroshima, Japan 

2007 Corine Tyler Walker Prize, Los Angeles, CA 2000 Sudler Fellowship, New Haven, CT

1999 Sudler Fellowship, New Haven, CT

1999 Richter Fellowship, Spain, Morocco


2014 Jacobson, Louis. “Two Takes on the Berlin Wall at the Goethe-Institut.” Washington City Paper (November 11, 2014).
Lisci, Luca. “Begone and present.” TAR digital edition, May 31-June 6, 2014.

Schwendener, Martha. “Origins Story, Through a Modern Lens – Experimental Strategies at Aipad’s Photography Show.” New York Times, April 10, 2014.

Nazarevskaia, Kristina. “Top AIPAD Recommendations: Farrah Karapetian at Von Lintel Gallery.” galleryIntell, April, 2014.

2013 Black, Ezrha Jean. “Between a Rock and Ice.” Artillery, November/December 2013. 2012 Lipschutz, Yael. “Review of Representation Cubed,” Whitehot Magazine. June 2012. 

Hsing-Huei Chou, Elizabeth. “ELAC Space Shows Art That’s Here Today,” EGP News. May 2012. Mizota, Sharon. “Review of Representation Cubed,” Los Angeles Times. May 2012.

Heuer, Megan. “500 Words, as told to.” Artforum.com, Spring 2012.

Frank, Peter. “Haiku Review: Paper Hearts and Harpsichords.” Huffington Post, February 29, 2012. 

2010 Martin, Terri. “Review of Lovingly, Rose Peebles.” Glendale News, December 10, 2010. “Artist Curated Projects: A Radical Artist-for-and-by Artist Collective.” Interview Magazine, December 2010.

“OPEN HOUSE, STATE SECRETS.” Polimorfo Journal (Puerto Rico), Summer 2010.

Killion, Stephen. “Empowering Architecture – Open House, State Secrets.” Architizer, Summer 2010.

2009 Ollman, Leah. “Farrah Karapetian at Sandroni Rey.” Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2009. 

Souza, John. “Farrah Karapetian: Tragic Muse’ at Sandroni.Rey.” Artweek, April 2009. Shaw, Michael. “Farrah Karapetian at Sandroni.Rey.” artslant.com, February 2009 “Catherine Taft’s Round-Up of the Best Shows in LA.” saatchi-gallery.co.uk, February 2009. 

“art la 09: no country for old men.” venicepaper.net, February 2009.

2008 Ramade, Benedicte. "Los Angeles Sous Le Manteau.” Zérodeux, Automne 2008.

“Continuing and Recommended Exhibitions.” Artsenecal, March 2008. 2003 Baker, Kenneth. "Artists on Art.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 2003.


Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

New Pacific Realty (Richard Meier & Partners) Beverly Hills, CA Material Press Limited Edition

Project Space, Los Angeles, CA Flint Public Art Project, Flint, MI