Leo Krikorian, “Untitled,” 1948. Oil on masonite. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.
Leo Krikorian (b. 1922 Fowler, CA, 2nd generation Armenian – d. 2005 Paris, France)
Leo Krikorian was born in California and grew up during the Depression years. In 1943 he was drafted, and one of his duties was to print photographs for training manuals. After WWII he enrolled in the Art Center School in Los Angeles where he studied photography under Ansel Adams. Upon hearing about Black Mountain College over coffee, Krikorian immediately applied. There, in 1947 and 1948, he studied painting under Josef Albers and Ilya Bolotowsky, the latter of whom became a major influence. On Bolotowsky’s class, Krikorian stated that “You could be a realist or be an abstractionist, and you’d get criticized according to your painting, not what you think.”
After a few years of travelling and education, Krikorian opened up a bar and experimental art venue in San Francisco in 1953 with Knute Stiles, another Black Mountain College alumnus. They named the bar “The Place”, and it became a hub of Beat life in San Francisco. Leo continued to paint, and also began making stained glass. His paintings and prints feature colorful and carefully crafted geometric figures that suggest possible influences from Albers, Bolotowsky, and Piet Mondrian. Krikorian operated a number of cafés and delis and remained an active part of the arts scene throughout his life.