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Karen Aghamyan's Mesmerizing Mosaic Inside “Zangak” Bookstore

Karen Aghamyan's "Progress" mosaic, created in 1983, is a well-preserved and even restored work of art. It is located inside “Zangak” book store on Komitas avenue, Yerevan, and I personally find it to be one of the best mosaics of the Soviet period.

Yuri Gagarin's historic spaceflight in 1961 was not just a scientific triumph for the Soviet Union; it became a cultural phenomenon that left a lasting impact on Soviet art. The depiction of the cosmos, cosmonauts, and spaceships became integral themes for Soviet artists, giving birth to a new movement in art. Soviet art often portrayed space exploration not merely as a scientific feat but as a symbol of the superiority of the socialist system.



The holistic image of the "Progress" mosaic is truly captivating. I was fortunate to visit the bookstore just after its reconstruction, when the shelves were still empty, providing an unobstructed view. However, the presence of columns made it challenging to capture a satisfactory photograph.



Eye-catching posters, frescoes, statues, mosaics, and bas-reliefs emerged, featuring astronauts, spaceships, and celestial bodies in bold colors and dynamic compositions. These works were designed to inspire the public and promote Soviet achievements. Today, these surviving pieces offer a portal to a Soviet past that was striving toward the future. In this article, we will focus on one such mosaic.

This expansive mosaic consists of three images. Let's explore it from the left side.



The first figure is an astronaut in a spacesuit, floating in space. The figure is rendered in a stylized manner, with the background showcasing abstract patterns and shapes that suggest motion and depth.

 


The second figure is reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, suggesting a blend of human anatomy and geometric perfection. It appears as though emerging from a seashell. Seashells are often associated with love and fertility. Could this be a reference to birth and new life?

 


The third part portrays a naked male figure with arms and wings outstretched, appearing to be levitating in the air. This can symbolize human aspiration and the quest for knowledge. Such figures with similar appearances were common in Soviet art. We also see an image of a dove, symbolizing peace.

 

The mosaic is crafted using earth tones, with a palette of brown, beige, white, and black tiles, creating an intricate and dynamic visual effect. The background continues to display intricate patterns and abstract designs, creating a cohesive and immersive visual experience.

 

Overall, the mosaic conveys a powerful narrative about human exploration, scientific achievement, and the artistic interpretation of these themes. The combination of abstract and figurative elements, along with the use of a rich color palette, enhances the visual and thematic impact of the artwork.

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