Contemporary Artist: Armén Rotch

stlukesguild

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Armén Rotch (b. 1955) is an Armenian who lives and works in Paris. There is little information available on him in English. What I have been able to glean is that he first began to exhibit his work in Armenia in 1978 under the name of Armén Hadjian, with the Carré noir group, and continued to exhibit into the 1980s with the avant-gardists of the 3ème étage, of which he was one of the founders, taking part in the “First Gathering of USSR Avant-gardists” in 1987. At this point, he began to show his work beyond Armenia: in Narva, Estonia in 1988; in Paris in 1989; in Copenhagen in 1990; and in Moscow, Vienna, and New York in 1991. He has lived in Paris since 1993.

The work for which Armén Rotch is best known is a fascinating series of paintings… collage… assemblage… and installations constructed of used tea bags organized into simple… almost Minimal patterns. “While others may use the bags to help tired eyes or compost the contents in their garden, Rotch re-appropriates the tea bags creatively, giving them a stunning new purpose.” Rotch employs that have been left to steep for different amounts of time – a process that allows the artist to build layers of tonal variation within the installation pieces.

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I had actually employed teabags in some of my own earlier collages:

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-Sonnet for Emily

Armén Rotch, however, succeeds in employing tea-bags as both the central motif and the primary medium from which his art is constructed. One suspects a link between Rotch’ Armenian homeland and the historical significance of tea as a once valuable commodity… traded across the continents… and carried from China to Europe along trade routes including those which traversed Armenia.

One may also infer an intention not unlike that of the Italian Arte povera movement in which art was created from the most humble of materials… the detritus of a culture in ruin… a culture lacking an excess of wealth.

Taken purely on face value, one must admit that tea bags… the artistic medium chosen by Armén Rotch… are visually intriguing and evocative. They suggest a lack of the arrogance so common in contemporary art. Rather, one senses a degree of modesty… even humility. There is also a definite tactile element… and this is wed to the sense of smell… which conjures or summons forth an array of memories.

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Just my cup of tea. Seriously.

I have seen works of Arte Povera in the Berardo Collection in Lisbon, Portugal. I was surprised how much I liked the work. I intend to upload images.
 
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I'm sorry, I'm sure they're impressive pieces, not least because of their size, and more power to him. But I can't take it seriously. As with so much modern art, this is an obsessive gimmick supported by a good spiel. Look mom, it's art from teabags! I was obviously in the wrong business. I should have been constructing large works out of dessicated latkes, blintzes and knedlach, with their varied textures and their associations with the shtetl life of my ancestors.
 
What I'll do is find a way to imbue them with the smell of the foyer of the apartment building on E. 18th between Aves O and P in Flatbush where my paternal grandparents lived. I'm sure some retired Jewish chemist could come up with it. It wasn't just my grandma who was cooking all the time in that place. This will require the museum to hand out paper cups to every patron to hold their drool, since they'll start salivating the minute they enter the exhibit hall. Then I'll collect those cups and make assemblages out of them, maybe after staining them with Nedick's orange soda, and filling them with melted bridge mix. Upon leaving the exhibition, in return for a small donation every patron will be eligible for a tablespoon of full fat veggie cream cheese from Russ and Daughters, or a mini-knish from Yonah Schimmel.

Hey, it's been about ideas ever since Duchamp, right?
 
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