In the riotous paintings on view in this show, Armenian-born Gegam Kacherian floats as rapturously through the Western art canon as he does through world cultures. The imagination, dreams and fantasy commingle with a range of painting styles to produce a Vegas-takes-on-art-history effect. The luscious color schemes vary somewhat in the medium- to large-scale acrylic-on-canvas paintings (all 2008 or ’09), but the compositions follow a fairly consistent format: meticulously detailed landscapes with Technicolor skies are overlaid with bravura prismatic flourishes and diverse appropriated imagery. Exquisitely drafted castles, cathedrals and modernist buildings and cities levitate. Exotic patterned animals, flocks of birds, boats, planes, costumed dancers, gyrating athletes and images from mainstream news and fashion media all share the canvas with swirling psychedelia-inspired phantasmagoria and other decorative elements.
The dynamic interplay of representation and abstraction owes much to the Baroque, with its delirious, gravity-defying spatial strategies in which the illusion of deep space matters as much as surface gymnastics. Kacherian’s expansive earthly and atmospheric spaces, sometimes scattered with weightless acrobatic figures, are likewise indebted to the Baroque quest to comprehend the material world in relation to the infinite cosmos. For example, in Place Out of Time (2009), a scantily clad, contemplative female sits on a polychromed rocky outcropping in the painting’s lower right corner as a hallucinogenic scene materializes in the clouds above her. The turbulent, often fiery skies we see throughout Kacherian’s work also echo the 19th-century sublime tradition of Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt. Other works draw on such diverse sources as Dalí, Photorealism, computer-generated graphics, tattoos, lurid sci-fi and fairytale imagery, the bright folk motifs of Russian lacquerware, Chinese embroideries and Asian landscape painting. Kacherian’s paintings exist where the borders between fantasy and reason are breached, unseen interior and exterior worlds are made visible, and the myths of magic and religion stand on equal footing with empiricism and rationality.
Photo: Gegam Kacherian: Place Out of Time, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 24 inches square; at Rosamund Felsen.