November 19, 2011

Karen Sargsyan "Prisoners of Conscience" at Ambach & Rice

Prisoners of Conscience
A solo exhibition of new works by Karen Sargsyan

11.19.11 - 12.28.11

Opening Reception 11.19.11 (6-8 pm)

AMBACH & RICE is pleased to announce Prisoners of Conscience, a sculptural installation by Armenian artist Karen Sargsyan inspired by political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Over the last six years Sargsyan has established a distinct visual vernacular through his dynamic figurative paper sculptures.

Sargsyan perceives paper as a material rich in historical connotation and significance. Paper has long been relied upon as the primary means of recording and transmitting information. Sargsyan utilizes the materials’ loaded meaning to express the human condition in grand tableaux vivants. His layered, folded and painted paper figures are imbued with lifelike gestures and emotions that belie the typically flat and static nature of the material. From afar Prisoners of Conscience is reminiscent of an unruly medieval carnival in which figures appear consumed in Dionysian revelry. It is not until one places themselves amongst the unruly cast that tragedy and torment begin to surface.

Prisoners of Conscience utilizes the trial and subsequent imprisonment of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a narrative departure point. In 2004 Khodorkovsky was the wealthiest man in Russia, amassing a fortune through his petroleum company Yukos. As he rose to power Khodorkovsky became an increasingly outspoken critic of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his political regime, condemning the rampant corruption he felt to be ubiquitous among state officials. These denunciations ultimately led to a rigged trial and his incarceration.

Sargsyan finds resonance in Khodorkovsky’s unlikely succession from oligarch to human rights and free speech advocate. His figures exist in the midst of a similar physical and psychological transformation. Strained expressions peer through elaborate masks, conveying the sense that those inside the costumes have all but surrendered free will. For these characters, anguish and liberation are bedfellows, each reliant upon the other. The installation functions less as a literal dramatization of Khodorkovsky’s plight than an obtuse homage to the universal truths inherent in his struggle. Sargsyan poetically reconsiders this contemporary political drama through a kaleidoscope of personal, historical, and allegorical references to present a theater that eschews time.

Sargsyan’s dynamic installation of tattered baroque figures lies in stark contrast to his first film, which is comprised of an interview with former Russian Parliament member Konstantin Borovoy and Political dissident Valeriya Novodvorskaya. Sargsyan’s interview with Borovoy and Novodvorskaya provides a sobering account of the various corruptions initiated and supported by Vladimir Putin and his regime. The work reminds the audience that truth can in fact be stranger than fiction.

Ambach & Rice
6148 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
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