He was born on May 3, 1941 in Yerevan, Armenia, in the
family of a well-known Armenian illusionist, Arshavir Khatchatrian ("Arsho").
He began to draw in early childhood.
In 1962 he was graduated with highest honors from the Yerevan School of
the Fine Arts.
In the same year he was accepted into the College of the Fine Arts in Yerevan, but his studies
were interrupted by his conscription into
In 1964, while serving in the army,
Levon Khatchatrian created his first picture that used text. In the Soviet
Union an artist had appeared, working independently in the same genre as
Kaprow, Kosuth, and Rauschenberg.
From his notes:
"When I made up my
I couldn't imagine that such works would be called either Soc Art or
Conceptualism or both together."
In 1965 Levon Khatchatrian returned
from the army to Yerevan and continued his studies at the Art College.
But in 1967 he interrupted his studies and, against the will of his parents, left for
Moscow to apply to the Art Faculty of the State Institute of
From his notes:
I was sure I would pass the exams for skill,
drawing, and painting, as well as for the history of the USSR, but I was
scared about the Russian language exam. At that time I sort of understood
Russian but spoke it very badly. I still remember the elderly examiner,
who, having seen my marks for drawing and realizing that I knew nothing
about parsing sentences, spent more time talking than asking questions.
Finally, looking guilty, he said that he couldn't give me a mark higher than
'Passing'. This was a victory! On the total of my marks I got in!
While studying, Levon Khatchatrian
continued "to make non-drawn pictures." As he perfected his
graphic technique he gradually moved away from the use of artists' customary
materials and approaches, since he
considered that the times called for
their own appropriate materials and means of expression. Almost all his works
could be called documents of the epoch, a chronicle of those years.
In 1968 Levon Khatchatrian met his
future wife, Larissa, and in 1970 their daughter Maria was born. But his family had almost no effect on his work. Later he wrote in his
"Kharms wrote that he stayed up late, keeping awake."
"I also love to stay up until late at night. It's quiet, nobody bothers
me. It's been this way ever since my student years. Living on campus in a
room with three roommates, at night when I needed to smoke, I would go
outside, into the long empty corridor. Various subjects, new
ideas for pictures, scenarios. In one word, theory. Then it was impossible
to think of the final result. Just to have an idea, just to write it
"Years later - the same situation. An one-room apartment, the child is asleep,
and I'm working alone in the kitchen. This was a wonderful embodiment of
"In my student years I often flew to Yerevan.
With a student ID I could buy a plane ticket for half price. These tickets
were always sold for the red-eye flights. I rode through Moscow in the
night and envied the windows that were lit-up. I didn't care who lived
there or what they did by day. I envied the fact that the inhabitants
could go into the next room and, without bothering anyone, turn on the
In 1973, after completing his studies at the State Institute
of Cinematography, Levon Khatchatrian returned to Yerevan and worked at
the republican studio ARMENFILM. In three years he worked on four
animated films as an art director. In the last of them, "The Loafer", he was the author of the screenplay,
the director, and the art director.
In 1975 he permanently joined his
family in Moscow and began work at the largest animated film studio, SOYUZMULTFILM.
As an art director, in seven years he made
eight animated films, creating screen
characters famous in
the USSR. At the same time he worked in
magazine graphics and was allured by the genre of
From his notes: For many years the Communists, in fact
their Central Committee, fed me and my family. The main Soviet
magazines came out under the aegis of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was in these very
that I illustrated the works of our multicultural literature. During
twenty years of membership in the USSR Artists' Union I didn't sell a
single picture, didn't get a single commission, although I meticulously
paid my membership fees.
Only fantastic capacity for work and tenaciousness
in his art gave him the strength not to abandon his main (conceptual) works,
although in the USSR they could not even be shown. The constant pressure had its
effects. In 1982 he suffered a heart attack. After
recovering, he decided to give up cartoons despite the huge
success of almost all the cartoon films he had made.
In 1983 Levon Khatchatrian became a
freelance graphics artist. Having seen even a few of his
can note the variety of techniques, approaches, and materials used.
Particularly notable was his work with the most authoritative magazine of
the Perestroika period,
The new Russian freedom did not change
much in the life of Levon Khatchatrian, though it did become
possible to read his favorite authors in legalized editions. Kharms, Khlebnikov,
Venedikt Erofeev, Zoshchenko, Shalamov...
From his notes: I really haven't felt the
change of times. As under the old regime, I continued to illustrate the
historical and detective books, short stories of dubious quality, and
folklore of the multicultural South of Russia. I am happy that now, as
before, my art is art for art's sake and in no way I yearn impatiently
for "long-awaited meetings with an audience." And I'm not sorry that less
work is getting done. What difference how many stacks of newspapers sit in
the corner of the room or hang on the walls. It's not a matter of
quantity. The idea is what counts.
the year 2000, at the age of 59, Levon Khatchatrian became an addicted computer user. He quickly mastered complex
graphics programs, and the Internet provided full access to
Many new ideas and plans appeared
including the computer animation and the creation of his own website - a
virtual gallery where the presence of the artist is not
required but access for the audience is unlimited.
He had not enough time to realize his dreams.
Levon Khatchatrian, my father, suddenly died of heart attack on December 17, 2002.
The present website is my tribute to