Jacques Karamanoukian, a Few Adventures

Jacques Karamanoukian by Cass Cafe, with My Sidewalk Drawing

Number 1 of a series: From the Zeitgeist Website

Jacques Karamanoukian loved art.  He collected it.  He bought and sold it.  He studied it.  He promoted it. Then, ultimately, he created it.

Over the years, he created a wide-ranging and amazing body of work.

There’s a new art book out in France dedicated to Jacques’ art work.  At 110 pages (mostly in full color), this book is a strong taste of what he was capable of.  It’s called “Jacques, le Karamanoukian.”

This exhibition here at Zeitgeist, our “Retrospective” will also cover a lot of ground.  Much of it is from my own collection.  I was able to buy a good group of Jacques’ art from his family, after we lost him in 2002.  Then too, we always made our formal and informal trades.  These were small pieces.

There are also a number of his other works on display.  These are lent by the Zeitgeist staff and by Detroit area art collectors.

Jacques loved artists as well.  He always told me that he wouldn’t show someone who made astonishing artwork if they couldn’t get along.  He had to like someone as a person if he was to exhibit their work.

Jacques knew that we who create have to sacrifice a lot in order to do so.

To be a real artist, to try to do the best you can, to take it as far as you can, is no easy task.

Jacques was part of the tradition of drawing and painting as a means for growth and understanding.  Sometimes, obsessive and incessant drawing can be a way of making sense of the world (in parts at least).

That tradition seems to be totally out of fashion now.  Yet for most of Jacques’ “circle” (here and abroad) it’s far from passé.  It’s a point of view, a quest, an experiment, an adventure, a way of life.

Like myself, Jacques sort of came out of literature.  That is, he was informed by a great love of books, of words.  That was the focus of his college studies. 

Though I had to make do with translations, we both had read a lot of the great French literature: Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Gerard de Nerval, Artaud, Lautreamont, the Surrealists and others.  We’d talk about that.

When we were in France (to show my work there, in 1996) it was like stitching history to life and to the future.  More and more it was as if we friends of Jacques were with him “on a mission” to push art further, to find some of the best and to make it more visible, more widely seen.   It was always very much “onward and upward” and just “continue the work.”

In Paris and at Site de la Creation Franche in Begles, Jacques translated for me in more ways than one.  Later, other Zeitgeist artists were also able to exhibit in and explore France with Jacques.

Yet despite this sense of purpose (directed) Jacques would impress upon me that it’s really not a “big deal” to be an artist.  One shouldn’t think oneself “special” or part of any unique elite.  So you’re a serious artist?  Deeply committed?   Smashing down boundaries between life and art?

Well, so what?  Just keep doing your work and maybe assist those others whose work you like (or as least try to see what they’re doing).

I’d wonder whether his comments were just to help prevent one from getting a “big head” or if they were reflective of how art and artists seem ignored and devalued?  This seems to be especially true in the United States.

Jacques was interested in creating a strong and varied body of artwork, himself.  At the same time, he spent a lot of time looking at, promoting and exhibiting other people’s work.  The artists who run the Zeitgeist try to continue in that tradition.   We’ve tried to track down and stay in touch with the artists he worked with.  Most of them showed in part one of this exhibit.  We keep our eyes open for new artists who fit into our vision.

 Jacques’ life in art is our primary example.  We talked with him about how to best run the Zeitgeist, how to make it work.  We continue.

In sad reflection, in the “aftertaste,” his life and work take on deeper and deeper meaning to those of us who knew him well, who were true friends.

We’d draw together and comment on each other’s work.  It never felt like a “school” or anything (but sometimes maybe it was).

I always loved his work while he was with us.  Yet I’ve grown to love it even more.  I think he was onto something. 

He’d often use collage or draw on top of brightly colored magazine pages.

His palette would vary: sometimes dull and muddy, sometimes bright (a bit fierce).  Jacques knew that the materials themselves can meld with the artist.

It’s like the musician merging with his instrument.  Paint, ink and paper (etc.) dialogue with the artist’s hands to find lost images.

He came up with some of the wildest: heads and almost heads, haunted landscapes, strange figures grasping at lost form and much more. 

For those of us already going in that direction, Jacques verified art as a search of sorts.  One always tries to touch (or make visible) what one can’t quite reach.  It’s an exploration and a way of life.

I don’t know if he was “optimistic” enough to make the Utopian leap from this approach to art leading to a similar approach to life (and actual change in the world itself).  I know he was often saddened and angry by the ways of humans, by the state of our poor world.

He was not one to “suffer fools.”  We loved him too for his candor, his outspokenness.  He usually did his best to “tell it like it is” and try to cut through the tangled webs of lies and illusions.   Look at his artwork.

writings by Maurice Greenia, Jr. (MAUGRE)May 12, 2005

Jacques and Mr. Imagination

Here’s another piece that I wrote on Jacques:



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