Contemporary Beat: Charles Garabedian

Born in 1923 in Detroit, of Armenian heritage, Charles Garabedian has spent most of his life in Southern California. As a painter, Garabedian created an incredibly personal iconography that deals with subjects like the mythos of creation, the fall from the Garden of Eden, and the nature of men and women, good and evil. He has freely borrowed from, especially, Greek and Chinese mythology in forming his unique vocabulary of pictorial content.

Garabedian was the subject of a phenomenal, large retrospective at the Santa Barbara Museum in 2011. For those who don’t know it, this museum is quite large for a small city, and boasts a collection of about 27,000 pieces, spanning most of the history of art. It has a top notch curatorial staff that puts up significant exhibitions. The scope and quality of its collection put the Santa Barbara Museum just under the top tier of major city institutions. It opened in 1941, in what was formerly a post office.

Unfortunately there were not enough good images available online to show as much of Garabedian’s work, and its variety, as I would have liked. Nonetheless, here is a small selection, to give you a feel for him. I hope you find his original style and attitude as compelling and interesting as I do.

Many of these paintings are monumental in scale. Left is a photo inside the museum of the retrospective.
I think it gives one a good sense of the scale of many of the pieces.


Garabedian continued his education after fighting in the Air Force during WWII. First at the University of California, Santa Barbara, then at USC, and finally at UCLA, over an eighteen year period, he worked his way through his undergraduate and MFA studies. He continues to paint, in his 90th year, in the studio he has occupied in Los Angeles for over thirty years. His “bold, bright, energetic palette”, and love of the nude form, continues unabated.



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12 Comments on "Contemporary Beat: Charles Garabedian"

  1. Kathy says:

    I have rarely been so unexpectedly affected by a museum show. I was curious to see his work in person, but was blown away by the beauty, the power, the energy, all of it. It’s very raw, and filled me with lots of emotion. Great post on a great artist. I want to find out where his studio is and knock on the door.

    • David Leeds says:

      Kathy, you said it all. His show was one of the strongest I’ve ever seen by a contemporary painter. Strong, direct, alien, mystical, and visual arresting. His work is so full of emotion, so evocative.

  2. Ulf Skei says:

    Expect the unexpected, is a phrase that comes to mind regularly while reading this excellent blog. And so it did this time too. Good. Very strong. Not humble in any way. I like it. Now must ponder.

    • David Leeds says:

      Discovering Garabedian’s work was such pleasure for me recently. He has such a clear drumbeat in his head, and never deviates. We all must keep our eyes, ears, heads and hearts open. There are always new discoveries of great value, just around the corner. “The truth is out there.”

  3. Helen says:

    Agree with both of the above comments. It would be great to see these in person. They border on murals to me — so large in scope and statement. (I am a big fan of murals.) The blond nude with the green background seems to give a nod to Thomas Hart Benton. These are very powerful images. Thanks for sharing. The museum sounds wonderful!

    • David Leeds says:

      Yes, Helen, I thought of Benton right away also. These works very much do have the power of murals. And indeed, The Santa Barbara Museum is quite a gem. As well as having more Monet’s than any other museum in the West, their antiquity collection is especially note worthy. They just have a surprisingly diverse, high quality collection all housed in a very nice, very “mission California” style structure.
      Oozing charm.

  4. sulky kitten says:

    Hi David, at the moment I live in a cultural desert, but I really enjoy art on this scale..thank you for the introduction to Mr Garabedian.

  5. David, I absolutely agree with you about the Santa Barbara Museum, it is a gem. I love going there and always visit when we are in the Santa Barbara area. This artist is very talented and I would love to see this show. Is it still on? I will try to figure out a time to go up there soon to see the exhibition, and also because I love Santa Barbara and Montecito! Thanks for another illuminating post.

    • David Leeds says:

      Unfortunately, Sunday, the Garabedian show was in mid 2011 and is no longer up.
      He does occasionally, however, show here in town at LA LOUVRE. I’ll let you know next time I hear of one. Kathy’s mother lives in Montecito, so we are also up there quite a bit. So gorgeous, and I love the community there.

  6. i have never seen these before, i love them thank you david for introducing me to these great works. i love seeing work from artist i have never heard of before.. this was a pleasure reading and looking at.

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Sculptor, painter, poet. Currently living in Los Angeles and Martha's Vineyard