Samvel Saghatelian aka Sam Saga
Samvel Saghatelian (aka Sam Saga) was born in Yerevan, Armenia in 1958.
He graduated from Yerevan Institute of Architecture and pursued a career in architecture. In 1988, at the brink of the collapse of USSR and Armenia's independence, he started his journey as an artist.
In 2001, Saghatelian was one of the artists representing the Armenian Pavilion in the 49th Venice Biennale in Italy, Plateau of Humankind.
In 2002, he was awarded a Fellowship from Arts Link (New York) for a residency program at Vermont Studio Center in Vermont, one of the largest international artists and writers program in the United States. He had his first solo exhibition there.
Very much attracted to the US art scene, Saghatelian moved to Los Angeles, California, where he currently lives and works.
His artistic expression is not limited to his art. Saghatelian has been the chief curator at Black Maria Gallery for five years.
Saghatelian describes the contemporary Los Angeles art scene as stretched, cute, unpredictable, monster, dark, crazy, communicative something [is] happening here and it's inspiring me.
2011 Mixed media project 'BODY', Bleicher Gallery Project Space, Los Angeles, USA
2004 Articultural Gallery, Los Angeles USA
2003 Harvest Gallery, Glendale, California, USA
2002 Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont State, USA
SELECTED GROUP SHOWS
2011 25th Anniversary of La Luz De Jesus Gallery. Los Angeles, USA
2011 "Independence" Alternative Contemporary Art show in Opera Square , Yerevan Armenia
2011 Mysterious Objects, portraits of Joan Quinn, Santa Ana Art College, California, USA
2011 Group Show, Museum Carcere Borbonico, Avelino, Italy
2010 Group Show "Armeni", Castel del Ovo Museum, Napoli, Italy
2009 Aqua Art Miami, Black Maria Gallery Collection, Miami, USA
2009 "Knights and Hunters" Black Maria Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2008 3 Person Show, La Luz De Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2007 Avenue 50 Studio, Los Angeles, CA
2007 "Deeeeesire" Gatoo Galleries,California State University, Long Beach, USA
2007 "Imigrant Punk" Black Maria Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2006 "PMS Revolution" Black Maria Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2006 "Hot: Images That Sizzle" APG Gallery, Atlanta, USA
2006 Gallery Bremen, Berlin, Germany
2005 "The Coffin Show: Between Life & Death" Black Maria Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
20005 "Macho Bullshit" Black Maria Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2005 "Over the Age" APG Gallery, Atlanta, USA
2004 "Arrival" Articultural Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
2003 Hunter Times Square Gallery, New York
2002 Exhibition of Armenian Artists: Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (ACCEA), Tehran, Iran
2001 XLIX Venice Biennale, Armenian Pavilion
2001 Arte Domus Gallery, Kortrijk, Belgium
2000 "Civic Commotion", The Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art (ACCEA), Yerevan, Armenia
1999 "Closed City"; Joint exhibition of Armenian and Russian Contemporary Artists. Hye-Art Cultural Center, Yerevan, Armenia
1998 Caribe Galeria de Arte, San Paolo, Brazil
1998 "At the Brink of 21st century" Museum of Contemporary Art , Yerevan, Armenia
1998 "Yerevan Biennale Exhibition of Avant-Garde Art", ACCEA, Yerevan, Armenia
1997 "Breakthrough". House of Parliament, Yerevan, Armenia. It was organized by the nonprofit organization ART 1700. I was one of founders. The organization was trying to lobby some changes in low to stimulate culture, such as a to make possible tax deductible donationsâ€¦
1997 "Post Soveticum". Armenian and Russian Artists exhibition, "Borjes" cultural Center, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1995 Gala Opening of the Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art
BIENNALES, PROJECTS , CONFERENCES
2001 XLIX Venice Biennale, Armenian Pavilion
2002 Fellowship, Grant from Arts Link(New York) & Vermont Studio Center, VT, USA
2011 Mysterious Objects, portraits of Joan Quinn
2010 HUSTLER magazine, December issue
2010 Catalog of The show "ARMENI" at Castel del Ovo, Napoli, Italy
2006 Armenian Palette of XX Century, Volume II
2002 III International Biennale, Gyumri, Armenia
2001 XLIX Venice Biennale
1999 I International Biennale, Gyumri, Armenia
Interview of Bleicher Gallery:
You work in a variety of media. Is there a way you choose your mode of expression?
I choose the mode of expression based on the concept and idea of the specific series.
You were trained and worked as an architect, and many of your paintings feature buildings an structures in inventive ways. How else does your architecture background influence your perspective and approach to your art?
Architecture combines science, spirituality and art. It's one of men's most fundamental personal, spiritual, social and political expressions. In architecture we can see men's contradictions and desire of communication.
In architecture expressed men's antagonism towards nature, god, society and even himself. But at the same time, his desires to overcome that antagonism.
Actually, men is creating limitations and same time overcoming them.
I am doing the same. I am overcoming limitations imposed or created by myself, family, neighborhood, city, country and etc.
Besides the way you incorporate architectural images into your paintings, your paintings reach across a broad range of styles. As a layman, I wouldn't necessarily realize that "Chick in the Bus" and "Woman in the City" were done by the same artist. What do you think is the common thread that unifies your paintings?
The common thread is contradictions. Each series contradicts other series. Contradictions are inseparable from human existence. I see contradictions and connect them. I am not trying to separate them. One needs to make this conflict work for him, not against him.
As someone who's lived and worked both inside and outside the United States, how does art differ in the U.S. and abroad? The mission statement of Black Maria is to bridge local artists to the public. How would you describe the L.A. art scene to the public who might not be aware that L.A. is a place where fine art flourishes?
Because artists emigrate here, art emigrates here. That art is developed, and in turn influences art around the world. Some of the art that emigrates here becomes part of the melting part of art, and some of it retains its individuality.
Other countries are influenced by their artistic and cultural heritage. America is a young country and, therefore, has certain freedom from such influences. As a result, America is a place where the experimental develops.
Art in Los Angeles is stretched, cute, unpredictable, monster, dark, crazy, communicative. Something is happening here and it's inspiring me.
The art scene in Los Angeles is different because of the urban specific situation of this city. You can't describe what Los Angeles is: is it a city? You are always looking for a city, but never finding it you're passing by. It's a constantly changing urban environment. Los Angeles is constantly overcoming itself. And the art reflects that.
Do you have a mission statement?
Realizing the importance of transitional spaces, we begin to understand the meaning of the notion "communication" and try to avoid permanent remnants from past to present, from good to evil, and from white to black.
And when our reality begins to seem more surreal than the surrealism of art and fiction, we are able to exist as self-actualizing persons thanks to those rare moments when we succeed in uniting within us distance, time and ideas that separate us.
Your work often features socio-political themes. In the group exhibition "Knights and Hunters" your work helped raise questions about the confusing expectations of men in modern times. Are there other social or political issues you are interested in expressing in your work?
I touch on human standards such as family values and prosperity, national survival, patriotism, and ideologies, and explore how individual lives and feelings have been sacrificed for the preservation of those standards.
In photo project Victuals I investigate yet another fundamental aspect of food: that of excess, registering variously as either gluttony or decadence, or both, in which case food functions effectively as a drug, a sublimation of deeper psychological issues. Sometimes we are consumed with "food" to a degree that the roles swap and we find ourselves in the food.
Ian my series of drawings and acrylic paintings Architectural Monsters I am interested in seeing the boundaries of respectability and taste being pushed as far as the imagination can accommodate, revealing a fascination with the sheer creativity involved in ostentation, extravagance, and garishness. Thus his architectural monsters can be not only ridiculous and pathetic, but at turns cute and even touching in their folly.
Is there anything else you'd like viewers to know about your work.
It is important for an artist to feel and to be able to express his own differences and his own "deviations". That's the driving force behind art; otherwise we would have limited ourselves within the boundaries of established classical, modern or contemporary art.
The departure from established norms and values, living through, questioning and challenging them is the only way to create, to say something new.