May 25 — July 13, 2019
Conduit Gallery is pleased to announce Collateral/Innocents, a solo exhibition of work by Dallas-based artist, Barsamian.
“My work, in most instances, is about informing people what has happened in history. Where there are truths, where there are lies, and what is kept away from us. Primarily I do it in my installations more than I do in my painting. As an artist, a time comes when you have to feel as though you’re contributing to the society you’re in. Art was a form of recording history for a very long time, but I think that’s kind of gone astray. I don’t think that it records specific events in history any longer, I think it records fashion and the experience tends to be on a more entertaining level than an expression. I believe I want to tell a story that is deeply involved with the part of my life that is giving back and telling of significant events that effect all people”
-- Robert Barsamian, 2019
Robert Barsamian has spent years thinking about conflicts, skirmishes, and civil conflicts. Beginning with a greater body of work about the Armenian Genocide, while resolving questions about his heritage, he has expanded his subjects beyond Armenia to involve violence that has taken place across the world. He has been asking: why has this sadistic behavior been happening for so long? This was a therapeutic exercise of his, to understand why. His drawings and installations are considerations of the plight of victimization, especially in wars and skirmishes where people are collateral damage. The exhibition, Collateral / Innocents, references how casualties are sometimes reduced to abstract figures, or statistical representations of an event.
Civil conflicts are internal battles amongst a nation-state, but sometimes other nations become allied to the conflict. The distinction balloons to an arbitrary mess. Incidentally, the US has participated in many of these wars. Since 1900 to now, the US has been involved in 200 skirmishes, contributing troops. Barsamian emphasizes this point to rebuff the idea that the US is not a warring state.
For the exhibition, Barsamian will present a large sculptural installation. A phantom image of a home, an outline of a building, a 28’x 8’x 10’ structure that presents an idea. The idea is to make the shape welcoming, so that viewers will see the reclaimed wooden floor as an invitation to walk upon. Three large drawings, deconstructed into strips, hang down inside the structure. These images are from three specific skirmishes he draws from for his research: the Syrian Civil war, The Somalian Civil War, and the Cambodia-Vietnam War. In each, a mother clutches a child, mourning with the intensity that recalls The Pieta. When walking through it, the viewer feels as though they are part of it, that there’s a connection to be made, an outlet for grief.
Robert Barsamian was born in a close-knit Armenian community in Whitinsville, Massachusetts in 1947, the son and grandson of survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. A studio art major at Massachusetts College of Art, Barsamian went on to receive his M.A. in 1971 from the State University of New York at Albany. He has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in a variety of museums throughout the country and abroad including: The Bronx Museum, NY; The Tyler Museum of Art, TX; The Dallas Museum of Art, TX; The Asilah Museum, Morocco; Swarthmore College, PA; Colgate College, NY; The University of Minnesota, MN; Holocaust Museum of Florida, FL; Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, MI; Project Row House, TX; Baruch College, NY; The Arlington Museum in Arlington, TX; Western New Mexico University, NM; George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, MA; Russell Sage College, NY; The Oklahoma Art Center, OK; The Houston Holocaust Museum, TX and Southern Connecticut State University, CT.