HRAG VARTANIAN

Fall 2017

Fixed Point Perspective
Ottoman Studio Photography and its Contemporary Legacy

Artists: Dor Guez, Aram Jibilian, David Low, Rehan Miscki, Hrair Sarkissian, Gariné Torossian, Akram Zaatari, Unknown Photographer

Curator: Hrag Vartanian

One of the most important images in 20th-century American art is Arshile Gorky’s Artist and His Mother, a series that brought biography, history, and myth-making into the mainstream of the country’s growing fascination with modern art. When we discuss the series, we focus on the avant-garde style of the painting and drawing. But what about the photography?

We know the painting was based on a photo postcard mailed by the artist’s mother in the Ottoman Empire to his father, who was a migrant laborer in New England. Most critics and historians stop there. Yet the image is part of a larger visual culture the artist was familiar with and understood.

Who was this photographer and what was their influence? Can we identify him, or her?

This curatorial essay investigates the source photograph, examining other modern and contemporary artists who similarly drew from the rich visual culture of Ottoman photography, giving the portraits an afterlife.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, a publication he created in 2009 in response to the changes in the art world, publishing, and the distribution of information. He has curated projects, exhibitions, and has organized public events since 1997. Highlights of his curatorial efforts include exhibitions at BAM, Storefront Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, and #theSocialGraph at Outpost, the world’s first multi-disciplinary exhibition of social media-related art. He has been a visiting critic at RISD, Brooklyn College, UC Davis, Pratt, Columbia and UNLV, as well as moderated panel discussions and juried exhibitions for various organizations, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Chautauqua Institution. Beyond his writing, he is an avid photographer and collector of photographs and maintains an extensive archive of mostly art-related images (15,000+) on Flickr, which he has uploaded under a Creative Commons 2.0 license so that anyone can use them with proper accreditation and links.

Client: HRAG VARTANIAN
Date: September 16, 2017
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Fixed Point Perspective Installation view. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Display case includes images from the curator’s private collection, chosen to evoke new possible directions for research into Ottoman studio photography and the relationships between image makers across periods and regions; Dor Guez, “The Sick Man of Europe: The Architect” (2015), scanogram, inkjet print; Akram Zataari, “Her + Him Van Leo” (2001), video; Hrair Sarkissian, “Sarkissian Photo Centre” (2010), inkjet print. Fixed Point Perspective Installation View. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Clock from top left: Anonymous Photographer, Police Supervision Photography Studio, Istanbul, images of un-detonated bombs found in the Pera (Beyoglu) district of Constantinople (Istanbul) after the failed assassination attempt on July 21, 1905, against Sultan Abdülhamid II by Armenian revolutionaries, bromide prints mounted in album, 1905; G. Lekegian & Co., Studio portrait of anonymous sitter (early 20th century), Cairo, Egypt; R. Carachanian, Orientalist image created for the tourist industry (late 19th century), Constantinople (Istanbul), Ottoman Empire (Turkey); R. Carachanian, Anonymous studio portrait (late 19th century), Constantinople (Istanbul), Ottoman Empire (Turkey); Unknown photographer, Anonymous studio portraits in front of studio backdrop, Port Said, Egypt Studio Garo. Fixed Point Perspective Installation view. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Akram Zataari, “Her + Him Van Leo” (2001), video; Hrair Sarkissian, “Sarkissian Photo Centre” (2010), inkjet print. Fixed Point Perspective Installation View. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Gariné Torossian, "An Inventory of Some Strictly Visible Things", (2017), commissioned video. Fixed Point Perspective Installation View. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen
Aram Jibilian, "Ottoman Armenian Figure in an Empty Landscape"(2017), backdrop painting by Simon Agopyan, 1910, and "Dust in the Bellows" (2017), backdrop photograph by unknown Ottoman Armenian photographer, 1912, both part of limited edition multiple available in the gallery. Fixed Point Perspective Installation View. Fall 2017. Photo by Stefan Hagen