WATERTOWN — On Saturday, March 12, at 2 p.m., the Armenian Museum of America (ALMA) will host the opening of a touring exhibition displaying the works of Yenovk Der Hagopian titled “Untold Story of an Armenian-American Artist.” The opening will include a reception in the Adele & Haig Der Manuelian Galleries on the third floor of the Museum. The event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served at the reception.
“The Untold Story” will display more than 20 works, including paintings on canvas, metal engravings, wood carvings and an album. The global tour of the exhibition was launched in Brooklyn, NY by the Bishop Gallery and the Estate of the late artist. In addition to the stop at ALMA, the tour will also travel to Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Miami, and Toronto, with a conclusion in Paris. The exhibition will be on display at ALMA until May 24, Der Hagopian’s 116th birthday.
Der Hagopian’s work, which serves as a history lesson on Armenian culture, will be displayed thanks to Bishop Gallery owners Erwin John and Stevenson Dunn, who insist, “no longer will his pieces be condemned to a storage closet. His work speaks to the history and legacy of a people. A history deeply rooted in pain; a pain that served as a catalyst for his creativity. After learning about this artwork through artist and historian Carlos Pinto, we thought it was imperative for the work to be shown, particularly because the arts play a significant role in preserving cultures that were completely or nearly extinct due to genocide.”
ALMA is no stranger to Der Hagopian’s work. Before his death in 1966, Yenovk constructed seven large wooden replicas of ancient Armenian churches, each several feet high. These were to be a part of a larger installation on a four-acre parcel of land he bought in Connecticut. However, Yenovk suffered a heart attack a week before they were to be moved and the seventh church, based on the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, was never finished. The churches have been displayed in an exhibition at the Armenian Museum of America and are currently part of the museum collections.
Born on May 24, 1900, in Ishkhanikom, Western Armenia, der Hagopian was the son of an ordained priest and lifelong confidante to the famed “Father of Abstract Expressionism,” Arshile Gorky. The Armenian Benevolent Union stated, “There is an honesty and deep emotional feeling in these early carvings of mourners, immigrants and survivors of the massacre of the Armenians.” Yenovk was said to have created his pieces of Armenia in its exactness from memory, and even recreated an Armenian landscape, complete with lakes and mountains, in his own backyard.
Proud to be an American, Yenovk migrated to Massachusetts in 1923 to live in Watertown, where he reunited with Gorky and continued his art studies. It was also in America that he recorded Armenian folk songs and started a family. He married Nevart Kalarchian on August 28, 1948. Der Hagopian’s artwork was discovered by his wife’s granddaughter, after her family decided to renovate their home. She was intrigued by the musings held in storage for decades, and decided to explore the life of this artist. On learning more about his work she explains, “I was connecting with a country I knew little about, while educating myself and my family on the greatest American art movement of the 20th century.”
The discovery of Yenovk’s work has inspired the Kalarchian family to start a fund in his name. Aimed at preserving the works found in their grandmother’s storage, the family also hopes they can raise enough funds to continue to have Der Hagopian’s art teach of Armenia’s rich culture around the world. To donate, supporters can visit http://www.yenovkderhagopian.com/donations.