August 27th, 2017. 4-10PM.
The American paintings of Rafi Chehirian, a Bulgarian conceptual painter and immigrant, are exhibited for one day on the sixth anniversary of his death • Rafi abstracted from the masses of people on New York City streets and subways to offer jarring glimpses of inarticulable existential conditions: spiritual disorientation, social misattunement and a solemn loneliness.
For Communist Bulgaria of the mid-1980’s, Rafi Chehirian’s paintings were unseemly.
"Until then we had not seen anyone draw such mysticism from the white blankness, nor such incomprehensible whisperings, as if from the depths of a mystical philosophy." — Tzvetan Kolev, Bulgarian painter.
They were denied public exhibition for years. After a long awaited and critically acclaimed joint-exhibition with his wife, sculptor Galina Delieva-Chehirian, the couple defected to Austria in 1988 and were granted asylum in the U.S.
In New York, Rafi worked as a textile dyer and lost himself ecstatically in a new language through newspapers, dictionaries and encounters with strangers. His new paintings were sunken in darkness—a vast, depthless background against which Rafi crept closer to his human subject matter.
From 1995 - 2000, Rafi abstracted from the masses of people he saw on New York City streets and subways to offer jarring glimpses of inarticulable existential conditions: spiritual disorientation, social misattunement and a solemn loneliness.
Rafi's Traces is a spirit and object archive. Conceived somewhat like the orderly storage of a tomb, this exhibition reckons with what is left over after a human is gone—with how we can extract and revive meaning from the void of another's presence. Rafi's paintings seem to belong nowhere. But they also desire to be seen. In their first public exhibition—on the sixth anniversary of Rafi's death—curator Julian Chehirian reckons with the traces left by his father.