“Unity: Exploring Freedom and Democracy in 2020,” an exhibit on view at Berta Walker Gallery at 208 Bradford St. in Provincetown through Election Day, includes about 20 works by Varujan Boghosian, who is now 94. Also in the show are works by Selina Trieff, Paul Resika, Romare Bearden, and other gallery artists and guests. Visitors should make an appointment for Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m., at calendly.com/bertawalker.
Many of Boghosian’s works relate in some way to this concept of freedom. For instance, Locked Trunk — Lock Out is a sort of visual pun. Could it be about freedom of speech? The Republican elephant? Maybe, but it is also just funny.
Berta Walker compares Boghosian’s work to a haiku of found objects. In some ways, this really gets at the heart of it. His work is certainly poetic. But haiku is perhaps too simple.
Observing Boghosian’s work, one gets the same chill that one sometimes gets in an antiques shop. There is evidence of time passing, rust, history. It is like looking at an old doctored photograph, the kind people used to claim gave evidence of ghosts. There is sensibility in its assembly, but also a feeling of fate or inevitability.
Breaking Through, for example, rips open the back of a canvas to reveal a copper, statuesque head. The face is so stoic, despite having burst out of a painting, that it is hard not to be amused. At the same time, however, there is something affecting about it — the effort it takes to construct a work of art?
Heartfelt takes a sepia-toned photograph of a man in a suit and tie, tight around the neck, and replaces the head with two cartoonish hands in a mystifying gesture, and a dry, heart-shaped leaf. There is something Magritte-like in the assemblage. The faded photograph echoes the lifeless foliage. It is hard to say what it all adds up to, but it coheres nonetheless, and it means something.
This is the case with all of Boghosian’s work. It is heavy with meaning, even if it makes you chuckle at first. And in the context of 2020, it couldn’t be more relevant. —Saskia Maxwell Keller