“American Gris-Gris” is artist Peter Adamyan‘s second solo show. Opening April 9th at Lopo Gallery San Francisco, Adamyan has created a body of work that portrays his view on American politics and culture. Adamyan’s work is not for the weak minded. Each piece is lovingly rendered, loaded with interesting detail. Some pieces stretch your sense of what is acceptable using twisted, comedic humor – but that is after all the point.
The show is described as…”Going back to the beginning of the America’s with an African tradition voo doo talisman known as a gris-gris, brought here on slave ships and carried on through southern culture and music, a gris-gris is a cloth bag usually filled with small ritual objects worn on an individual in hopes of bringing luck and ward off evil. Adamyan explores what helps America sleep at night, what they believe brings them luck and wards off their evils. At the center of this is the notion that we live in a Christian nation, based on Christian ideals leaving science and historical fact to rot. With additional themes of other major issues plaguing our nation, such as immigration, terrorism, and all that comes with living in a consumer society. He explores this idea with his classic dark humor and a hefty dose of pop culture references.”
American Gris-Gris is a very tight, very cohesive show. Showcasing a broad range of pieces, Adamyan has created a very special, body of work, displaying an intellectual narrative and skill far beyond his 23 years. Warholian had the pleasure of visiting Peter’s studio to preview American Gris-Gris, this is what he had to say about this body of work.
1. You spent over a year creating this show, when you originally started this body of work what were some of the themes that you were trying to convey? Did you find that the themes evolved over the year that it took you to create this body of work?
The inspiration for this show really came from my frustration with the religious right in this nation, the way they view current and historical events. It comes from their belief that this nation is dictated by their creator’s laws and not those that come from man’s own minds, weather through contemplation or some evolutionary trait instilled in us all. The main ideas behind this show are the separation of church and state, scientific fact over religious superstition and many other ideas that have plagued our nation in the past, present and most likely in the future, from racial bigotry to nuclear fall out, and in the end I try to approach these subjects with a sense of humor, so we can all laugh about it and release some of the pressure we can all feel when worrying too much about these issues.
2. Your work contains a mixture of pop culture reference, literary reference and cultural events – name some of your biggest sources of inspiration for this body of work?
In my work I always try to use popular culture as symbolic to the concept of the piece, and this show is no exception. I’ve pulled them from many sources, there are references to men of science like Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins the biologist and atheist writer. There are references to movies and cartoons like Soylent Green and The Flintstones. I use these because I feel like they’re our mythology, our Gods and our fables. Artists of the past have always been inspired by their cultures stories, ancient myths and new heroes, I just try to carry on that tradition.
3. Some might consider your pieces controversial. Explain your thoughts pushing the boundaries of artistic freedom and how courting controversy plays into your work.
I don’t think there are any boundaries to push when it comes to artistic freedom, because if there were boundaries we could never really call it freedom. Sure there are those things that are taboo, there are limits to what is socially acceptable. I am not one who believes in doing anything for the sake of shock value, there should always be a reason for doing what it is you do, and I never do anything without a reason. There is one thing I’ve come to realize with this show is that the pieces that I believe people will be most offended by are usually inspired by the things that offended me the most, such as “Osama Bin Ladin Steals Aladdin’s Magic Lamp” which was inspired by the ground zero mosque controversy a few months ago. I was extremely insulted that such a controversy could arise in a nation that claims religious freedom. We?re given many freedoms in this country even if there are those people who like to believe its all an illusion that there is some secret conspiracy holding back our freedoms, but I strongly believe in the power the freedoms we’re allowed in this country can give us, what’s going on in the middle east now is a testament to that. There are still many countries that stunt freedom, and every piece of art we make that offends someone is a tribute to our freedom.
4. Your work is really interesting with lots of layers and details, explain the overall process of your favorite piece for the show. Why is this piece your favorite?
All of my oil paintings are on layered and cut wood. I can’t say I have a favorite piece in the show, it’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite child, but the flier piece for the show is the largest and most elaborate piece I’ve done of its kind and was a giant leap for me for that reason. I start with a concept, for that piece it was the idea that the political right likes to claim all the time, that this is a Christian nation. Then I come up with little things that can express my feelings on the subject, such as the crucifixion of our founding fathers and the Santa Claus last supper scene. Next I gather images for all those ideas and start one some small sketches to figure out the composition, when I have that down I do a larger finalized sketch. I then work from the top layer of wood to the last layer, doing a monochromatic under painting. When I cut one layer I use it as a guide for the next gluing them down and cutting them out until I meet the last layer. I try my best to add as many details and as many of my original ideas as possible because I see paintings as more then decoration, they should also entertain the viewer.
5. You recently relocated from Los Angeles to San Francisco, in your opinion what do you find to be the main differences between the two art scenes?
I think the San Francisco art scene is much tighter, everyone seems to know everyone, or at least know of them. Los Angeles is made up of smaller “scenes”, it’s much harder for an up and coming artist to make a mark. Both cities’ art scenes are great, no matter what bay area artists say about Los Angeles, haha. An other thing I’ve noticed is that street art is bigger and better in the bay area, where as Los Angeles has a larger community of more refined, and traditional oil painters and illustrative influenced artwork.
6. So, if all things go to plan, and everything falls into place, in another year, where do you see your career headed?
I just want to keep making the art I want to make, I guess we’ll both just have to wait and see exactly what happens.
Also on display, at Lopo Gallery “Origins” is a new body of work by artist Helen Bayly. Exploring themes of Mythology and Science, Origins depicts a unique combination of scientific and religious imagery. Bayly had this to say about her new paintings, “By using prehistoric and primal imagery and applying it to mythological narratives, I am creating a new story of humans part in history and where we will be in the future. We tend to give man much of the credit for such a spectacular universe, where as I see the humans role in it to be small and still very naive. Not being a religious person, I wish to celebrate a new concept, one based on the information we have understanding of at this point in time with the similar attention and appreciation given to mythological figures.”
Helen Bayly’s unique style is colorfully rendered and stimulating. This is a female artist to keep an eye on.
“American Gris-Gris” and “Origins” will be on display at Lopo Gallery at 1141 Polk Street in San Francisco California. For more details and purchasing information visit LopoGallery.com.
By Lyrica Glory of Warholian.com
Photos by Michael Cuffe of Warholian.com