The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde

The journey of the 'painterly real', 1987-2004

By Angela Harutyunyan

The political aesthetics of the Armenian avant-garde


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1439-6
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: March 2017
  • BIC Category: The arts: general issues, Political science & theory, Politics & government, 20th century, c 1900 to c 1999, History of art, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, ART / Techniques / Painting, ART / History / General, ART / Criticism & Theory, ART / History / Contemporary (1945-), The arts / History of art / art & design styles, Society & social sciences / Political science & theory, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, The arts / History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -, Art History


This book addresses late-Soviet and post-Soviet art in Armenia in the context of turbulent transformations from the late 1980s to 2004. It explores the emergence of 'contemporary art' in Armenia from within and in opposition to the practices, aesthetics and institutions of Socialist Realism and National Modernism. This historical study outlines the politics (liberal democracy), aesthetics (autonomous art secured by the gesture of the individual artist), and ethics (ideals of absolute freedom and radical individualism) of contemporary art in Armenia and points towards its limitations. Through the historical investigation, a theory of post-Soviet art historiography is developed, one that is based on a dialectic of rupture and continuity in relation to the Soviet past. As the first English-language study on contemporary art in Armenia, the book is of prime interest for artists, scholars, curators and critics interested in post-Soviet art and culture and in global art historiography.


'In the multidisciplinary field of art history and criticism, The Political Aesthetics of the Armenian Avant-Garde: The Journey of the 'Painterly Real,' 1987-2004 places new emphasis on rethinking the socialist past through the lens of aesthetic theory. Importantly, this goes beyond the normalized perception of the Soviet or post-Soviet critical art that is constructed dominantly through hegemonic narrative of the Russian avant-garde, Sots art, and nonconformist art. Harutyunyan's book offers to recognize the varied distinctions, such as geopolitics, culture discourses, and identity politics, have to be drawn when working with the Soviet past and post-Soviet present in avant-garde artistic practices.'
Marianna Hovhannisyan, University of California, Field: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism, Issue 10, Spring 2018

'Writing an art historical account of a period of political transition, in addition to the epistemological difference of attempting to do so while using the dominant vocabulary of the Western art historical discourse, remains an unresolved challenge for all of us in the field. As a first attempt at historicizing recent alternative artistic practice in Armenia, Harutyunyan's The Political Aesthetics of the Armenian Avant-Garde is an impressive venture, and highly informative on artistic practices of the twenty-year period in question.'
Duygu Demir, Art Journal Open, May 2019

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