Galerie Peter Kilchmann
Zahnradstrasse 21, CH-8005 Zurich
tel. +41 44 278 10 10
November 4 - December 22, 2017
Galerie Peter Kilchmann is pleased to present the fifth solo exhibition of the American artist Raffi
Kalenderian. He was born in Los Angeles in 1981 and the Californian metropole is now the centre of his
artistic production. Kalenderian’s paintings and drawings explore the possibilities of the portrait genre
and range between reality and poetic illusion. For the exhibition Kalenderian is presenting a newly
created work group consisting of large and medium-format oil paintings on canvas (150 x 122cm, 122 x
91.5cm and 91.5 x 61.5cm) and eleven works on paper (134 x 91.5cm and 71 x 51cm).
Kalenderian’s portraits act like windows into his personal microcosm. They create intimate moments
between model and artist which include the observer. Friends, family members and people with whom
the artist is personally connected but also acquaintances from the creative scene such as musicians,
writers and poets are the central protagonists of his interiors, which are very spartan in this new series: a
delicate chair, an empty unadorned room, a composition that in its simplicity directs the viewer’s curiosity
towards the pose of the centrally placed model. Relevant details, such as the floor covered with
countless spots of paint in Erika in the Studio, but also the consciously arranged carpet, the painted
partition screen with the Californian flag in Emily create the awareness that these works were created in
the studio in the living presence of the models.
At the same time, the artist’s great passion for detail can be felt in every corner and on every level of the
picture. Kalenderian’s compositions are permeated by strong colours and unusual geometrical patterns
which attract and repel each other. Busy stripes or checks on the painted fabrics give the artist an
instrument for distortion and abstraction. A bright green pattern on the wallpaper, as dominates in Dasha,
moves into the foreground. In Shanti it is the young man’s clothing with its extreme focus that stands out
from the background. The intense red of his shirt and the navy blue check contrast with the restless
structure of the texture, reminiscent of wood, on the wall behind his back. It is an intensive and highcontrast
colourfulness that Kalenderian skilfully uses to set off certain colours such as deep red and
vibrant white even more intensively, as in Steven (see invitation card).
Kalenderian often overpaints existing works then partly scratches off the new layers of paint to allow
certain parts of the picture to re-emerge. It is an interplay between pastose overlays, glazes, encaustic
elements and erasing existing surfaces. As a result of this the portrayed figures seem to partly dissolve
and become one with the background or stand out very strongly from it. The brushwork is lively and
strong. Energised curved patterns dissolve in static straight lines. Strongly worked contours fade and
fuse with dappled areas of colour.
Despite the insights into the studio space, the eye of the viewer repeatedly turns to the subject’s face
and explores its physiognomy and facial expression which looks towards the artist in a dreamy, relaxed
or sometimes challenging way. Such as in Alison who, turned in profile to the viewer, looks out almost
suspiciously from the side. In contrast to the usual frugality of props we see here an arrangement of
smaller objects on a white-glazed chest of drawers which, with its pastel tones, contrasts strongly with
the black of the leather jacket and the austere backward-braided plaits. Kalenderian’s faces appear
authentic and at the same time mask-like and unfathomable. The people are either integrated or
displaced between reality and alienation in the real surroundings of the studio. It is an unconventional
style of portraiture which is less concerned with the physicality of the model than with the fragility of the
psyche and the relationship between the inner and outer state.
Raffi Kalenderian’s work has already been shown at many international solo and group exhibitions in the
USA and Europe. In 2016 Kalenderian was part of the exhibition Painters' Painters at the Saatchi Gallery
in London, UK. In 2010 his works were on show at the Next Generation exhibition at Kunstmuseum St.
Gallen, Switzerland. Kalenderian graduated in painting from UCLA, California, where he studied under
Laura Owens and Yutaka Sone among others. Kalenderian is one of the new generation of young artists
from Los Angeles.