The term coined by Claude Levi-Strauss in The Savage Mind (1962), exists in French with no English equivalent, and describes a high level of sophistication utilizing primitive materials and mythical thought.
As a practitioner of the modernist tradition of paste-ups in the wake of John Heartfield and Max Ernst, Varujan Boghosian speaks not only with things, but through the medium of found objects. By re-contextualizing 100 years worth of found materials with scissors and paste, time and context are re-examined. Boghosian’s approach is intuitive and meditative, dealing less with external social factors and lending more focus to the materiality and history of the object. Fusion and juxtaposition are what sets his work apart along with an acute understanding of literary history, while his inquisitive nature is what lends poetry to his constructions. His use of contradictory visual elements is sympathetic to Ernst but the content he creates is all his own.
Boghosian showed with the legendary Stable Gallery, founded by Eleanor Ward, consistently between 1963 to 1966. At this time, the Stable Gallery showcased various young and emerging artists including: Joseph Cornell, Alex Katz, Marisol Escobar, Joan Mitchell, Isamu Noguchi, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Larry Rivers as well as Andy Warhol’s first one-man show. The unorthodox and experimental spirit of this time has remained with Boghosian and informed his developing relationship with the appropriation of everyday objects and their subsequent plastic manipulations.
In 1968, Boghosian began to exhibit with the historic Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery, Duchamp’s dealer in America. It was an ideal fit for Boghosian, as Arne Ekstrom’s distinctive style favored the union of art and literature. Cordier & Ekstrom put on far-reaching shows that gave the same attention to world-renowned artists as it did to those who were just emerging. Morris Louis and Noguchi were some of the artists who frequented the gallery and it was where Romare Bearden honed his style. The gallery’s circulating exhibition roster included such prominent names as Dubuffet, Matisse, Saul Steinberg, and Magritte. Boghosian developed a long-standing relationship with Arne Ekstrom and exhibited with the gallery well into the late 1980s.
Boghosian’s work began to be included in the thematic exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago as early as 1954. He has also received numerous grants including a Fulbright, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy in Rome where he was in residence with Philip Guston, and he has been an active member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the past 30 years. His presence as a teacher has included the Cooper Union, New York (1959-64), Yale University (1962-64), Brown and Dartmouth College (1968-96).