Charles Garabedian (1923–2016) was an American-Armenian artist known for his paintings and drawings rich in references to Greek and Chinese symbolism. His artwork reveals a deeply personal world that explores the relationship between painting and sculpture.
Garabedian was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Armenian immigrants who had come to the U.S. to escape the Armenian genocide. Garabedian’s mother died when he was two and his father was unable to take care of the three children.Garabedian lived in an orphanage until age nine, when he, his father, and siblings moved to Los Angeles, California.
“Charles Garabedian’s paintings are not beautiful because they depict scenes from classical mythology, but because they render the world of classical mythology real. I’ve never imagined Prometheus surrounded by his own shit, for example, terrified and in unbearable agony from having his liver torn out on a daily basis. But Garabedian did, and did so with such inventive detail and visceral humor that he transports the classical to the present day, here. After hundreds of years of art history fetishizing classical aesthetics, Garabedian’s paintings remind the viewer that the world of Olympic gods and titans is one that is not perfect — instead, it is idyllic and savage and surreal all at once. ..As a late-blooming artist, Garabedian was never interested in making things that look like art; instead, he gave himself over to his instincts, pretensions, and mistakes, unafraid to explore and even embrace what others considered to be “bad.” He states in one interview, “The bad — I’m responsible for that and there must be something there. You know, you can’t just dismiss it by saying, ‘Oh, well he said that’s bad, this is good.’” His willingness to constantly question and prod at preconceived notions of good and bad is what earned him a spot in Marcia Tucker’s notorious “Bad” Painting exhibition at the New Museum in 1978, what later cemented his reputation as an artist’s artist, and what makes his work so compelling, even today.”