E O Z E N A G O P I A N : AN APPRECIATION
I first encountered the work of Eozen Agopian in 1992, during her two-year Master of Fine Arts program at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York. I was initially struck by two aspects of her work - her obvious gifts as a colorist and her success in energizing her paintings with a palpable physicality. It was in ensuing years, after having developed both a personal friendship and a collegial relationship with the artist and having the welcome opportunity to closely follow the development of her work, that I became aware of another important strength she possesses - her constant testing of herself via a thorough and on-going self-appraisal as a maker of paintings.
Her approach to composition has undergone a significant evolution, beginning markedly in 2001. Most works from the early years of that decade employed shapes which managed to be both organic and symbolic in spirit, and the setting, or framework, in which they were positioned often involved her juxtaposing a single large shape (sometimes monumental in feeling) with a constellation of jostling, smaller shapes. Frequently, the rectangle of the painting would be divided between two areas having not only quite different sizes, but also having ground colorations which were strongly contrasting - light against dark, or brilliantly colored versus a darkened grey or black., as though a curtain were being drawn across the canvas to hide one area and emphasize its alter ego.
An important work, titled All Summits, of 2003, indicates a new approach to composition via the employing of a continuous, interwoven, black line, behind which similar, though less defined, markings in white allow but a glimpse of a deep space. In this work - a significant investigation of a true, all-over compositional structure, the black web is more skeletal at the right margin of the painting, again with the implication of a curtain or scrim being drawn across the work, from left to right, with the impact of motion suddenly interrupted.
As recently as 2005, her work frequently - and poetically - referenced landscape space, and one individual work from that year, African Waters, with its beguiling palette of blues and greens, summons up the meeting of land and sea. (It is surely one of her most accomplished - and most beautiful - works to date.)
More and more, however, her paintings address the compositional structure known as “all-over painting”. In the present exhibition, Double Space, three paintings, Untitled andNo Doubts (both dated 2007) and I have no answer (2010), with their combining of looping, interwoven lines and small, shard-like shapes, constitute fine examples of this investigation. The lyrical, though carefully orchestrated, palettes of these works further their fidelity to the gestalt of the all-over composition.
A crucial issue for one attempting to gauge the level of ambition and success of her recent works is the aspect of her discipline as a working artist. The exhibition includes two Gemini-like paintings, titled 3rd of September I and II (both 2010 and both measuring 100 x 90 cm), which conjure the ‘theme and variation’ compositions of Bach and Mozart. Stepping away from the central role given to color in her work to date, she limited herself to a palette of whites, greys, and blacks. These densely constructed works, with their interlocking triangular and fan-shaped building blocks and their consummate marriage of drawing and painting, are truly remarkable accomplishments. Viewing them
is akin to listening to a great, operatic soprano practicing by singing scales.
In closing, I want to praise two other works in the exhibition, both completed in 2009 and - considered together - also evoking ‘theme and variation’ as a working method. In his room and Connecting Flight also wed the act of drawing (on a frontal plane) to that of painting. The drawing - in black - in each work summons up a powerful sense ofcontainment, resembling both metal scaffolding on the façade of a building and prison cells. Behind the vigorous, all-over drawing, there glows a heavenly light - whites, pale blues, yellow… - which may well represent the promise of eternal life, after the trials of contemporary existence. It may also be a manifestation of the artist’s oft-remarked upon, bountiful optimism, rising as it does above the knowledge of the persecution and murder of her Armenian ancestors, the present tribulations of her fellow citizens of Greece, and - possibly - the self-doubts which afflict so many creative persons, no matter how gifted they may be.
Eozen Agopian’s intelligence, talents, perseverance, and courage have produced a painter of considerable substance - and of even greater promise, whom Armenia, Greece, and the United States can all be proud to claim!
Independent curator of exhibitions and collections
New York, March 2011