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Armenian Requiem Celebrates Dia De Los Muertos

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Requiem for the Forgotten: Armenian Genocide places Dia de los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead, which honors and recognizes family and friends who have passed -- in a multicultural context befitting of Los Angeles' place as global hub and home to millions from every continent.

By staging Requiem for the Forgotten: Armenian Genodcide as an annex to Avenue 50 Studio's Dia de los Muertos show, Sophia Gasparian, Kaloust Guedel, Arpine Shakhbandaryan and Zareh reflect on and illuminate the Armenian Diaspora with works staged in three parts: recognition, confrontation, and healing.

The base of a wrought iron cross is stacked with what appear at first to be skulls, but which are actually pomegranates, an important symbol for Armenians. Gold paint marks the known death sites on a map. The final stage (healing) that appears in Gasparian's works -- some in collaboration with Lydia Emily, Terri Berman, Daisuke Okamoto, Douglas Alvarez, Farzad Kohan and LeNic -- juxtaposes a childlike aesthetic with social commentary. Each of her artworks, features children. In one, a boy and girl hold hands. Bombs are falling. In another, the same duo appears proclaiming:

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While Latino families build altars for those they have known, Requiem for the Forgotten honors the hundreds of thousands of Armenians who perished at the hands of the Ottoman Empire whose graves are unmarked, their names and stories lost in the sands of the desert or the waters of the Black Sea. Armenians were deported to the desert, which saved the Ottoman government the expense of ammunition and mass grave clean-up, or overboarded from deportation boats.

Traditionally, the Armenian Day of Remembrance is celebrated on April 24, to commemorate the 1915 arrests of Armenian intellectuals and the beginning of a systemic, organized ethnic cleansing ordered by the Young Turk government. (The rapes and murders of Armenians had been an ongoing, though not an officially sanctioned, fact of life -- and death -- for the Armenian population in Turkey since the mid-19th century.)

For Gasparian, to be alive and in the United States, creating her artwork and contributing to her new home is a gift -- the triumph of resilience and culture over evil. Gasparian's great-grandmother was 6 years old when her family was killed. Neighbors hid the child, who was eventually placed in an orphanage and taken to France.

Gasparian herself grew up in Soviet Armenian, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 15. She has been painting since she was a child in Soviet Armenian, and at age 12 her work was exhibited across Europe.

Requiem for the Forgotten: Armenian Genocide in conjunction with Dia de los Muertos: Celebration of Life runs from October 8 to November 4 at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park in Los Angeles. 323-258-1435.

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