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Charles Garabedian


Green China Wall

Wood, acrylic, and resin
95 x 73 x 10 in. (241.3 x 185.42 x 25.4 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation

At an early point in his career, Charles Garabedian temporarily stopped reading in order to free his work from the encumbrances of literary influence. Nonetheless, it was a compendium of photographs and illustrations in a 1940 book titled Chinese Houses and Gardens that inspired his Henry Inn series. Named after the author of the book, this series generated one of the artist’s nest paintings, Green China Wall (which is also considered to be one of a small group of his works known as The Walls of China).

Works from the Henry Inn series are, as Charles Kessler once wrote, “among the most physically constructed of Garabedian’s paintings.” After creating a base by gluing together narrow strips of wood, the artist often cut shapes into them—some that penetrated through, and others that were filled with layers of colored translucent resin that for the artist emphasized dimensionality. Eluding conformity to exacting right angles, and manifesting a slight awkwardness that has become a beguiling attribute of the artist’s oeuvre, these works hang on the wall or stand on their own like screens or fences.

Garabedian had not traveled to Asia before he began the Henry Inn series, which thus draws only upon his notions about one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, using shapes from the garden walls and gateways of Inn’s photographs and diagrams. In effect, Green China Wall represents a port of entry for the artist as well as for the viewer who, confronted by the work’s presence and scale, may easily imagine it as a site of passage. Representing both the physical and the metaphysical worlds, this painting is a locus of contemplation, much like the parks, gardens, burial sites, and domestic spaces that inspired its creation. It is as much a product of fantasy as it is a reminder of a vast history which is, in this world, unattainable.

Julie Joyce

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