UNDER THE AUSPICES OF
H.E. ARCHBISHOP MOUSHEGH MARDIROSSIAN
PRELATE, WESTERN UNITED STATES
STEPHANIE’S ART GALLERY PRESENTS
A HISTORIC EXHIBITION FEATURING THE WORKS OF
La Crescenta, CA: Stephanie’s Art Gallery has announced a special exhibition drawn from the extraordinary discovery of artwork created by Arthur Pinajian (1914-1999). The opening reception will be on Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 7:00 PM at the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Church, located at 6252 Honolulu Avenue, La Crescenta, CA.
The exhibition of rare works of paper and canvas will feature the artist’s mid-century abstractions and late lyrical landscapes.
A portion of proceeds from sales to benefit the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Church. Public viewing hours are from October 12, 2017, 7:00PM- 10:00PM until October 13, 2017, 5:00PM- 9:00PM
Pinajian was an Abstract Expressionist landscape and figurative painter who stands as the quintessential example of the forgotten American artist who was highly gifted yet was completely unknown in his lifetime. It was not until March of 2007, when the New York Timesfeatured a story titled, “Closing on a House, and a Life’s Story, Told in Art.” Fortunately for American art history, the buyer of the Pinajian cottage in Bellport, Long Island, also became dedicated to preserving the cottage’s large art collection of abstract paintings that had been destined for the dumpster.
Thirty rarely seen pieces will be exhibited, thereby, providing the public and collectors an opportunity to view and acquire important paintings by a man who died in obscurity but who, through fortuitous circumstances, has been rediscovered and reclaimed by the art world.
After Pinajian’s death in 1999, five decades of accumulated artwork were found stacked up in Bellport, Long Island, cottage he shared with his sister, Armen. In the years before his death, Pinajian implored Armen simply to “throw it all away.”
Fortunately, at the last moment, this massive body of work was rescued by cousin. In 2007, the late Dr. William Innes Homer, once dean of American art historians, agreed to study the collection and was stunned by what he found: an almost bewildering array of extraordinary abstract landscape and figurative paintings by a gifted artist who was completely unknown in his lifetime.
Homer concluded that Arthur Pinajian represented one of the most compelling discoveries in the history of twentieth century American art: “Even though Pinajian was a creative force to be reckoned with, during his lifetime he rarely exhibited or sold his paintings. Instead, he pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cézanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference.
In his later years he could be compared to a lone researcher in a laboratory pursuing knowledge for its own sake. His exhaustive diaries and art notes make it clear that he dedicated all of his days to his art. He was passionate and unequivocally committed….Ultimately, Pinajian’s work reflects the soul of a flawed, yet brilliant, artistic genius. When he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.”
In March 2013 in a story heard round the world, hundreds of news outlets reported the extraordinary value experts had placed on the Arthur Pinajian collection. This breathtaking cache required years of cleaning, archiving, and scholarship to prepare the works for exhibition.
ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America” featured the story as “the unlikely discovery that rocked the art world;” ABC’s “20/20” reported that “Art experts decree Pinajian deserved to be called one of the great undiscovered geniuses of the Modern Art Movement” and the New York Times devoted two lengthy articles to Pinajian, including coverage of the first, very successful, exhibit in New York City in March of 2013.
As a boy growing up in an Armenian community in West Hoboken, N.J., Pinajian was a completely self-trained cartoonist. During the Great Depression he became one of the pioneers in a new medium: the comic book. In 1940 he created “Madam Fatal,” the first cross-dressing superhero, for Crack Comics.
After World War II, he enrolled at the Art Students League in Woodstock, N.Y. Although he associated with a number of the New York Abstract Expressionists, such as Franz Kline and Philip Guston, he was largely reclusive. For 22 years his life revolved around Woodstock, NY while he passionately pursued his painting.
His admirably poetic color combinations are linked to the tonalities of his better-known fellow Armenian, Arshile Gorky [ca.1904-1948]. Late in life, he moved with his sister to Bellport, Long Island. There, in a tiny bedroom-studio he strived for visual and spiritual conclusions regarding flatness and color, goals paralleling those of the Abstract Expressionist movement
The exhibition is accompanied by a 128-page hardcover book with essays by art historians Falk, Richard J. Boyle, the late William Innes Homer, art critic John Perreault, conservator Jonathan Sherman, bestselling author Lawrence E. Joseph, owner of the collection, and Pinajian’s artist cousin, Peter Najarian. The collective essays present one of the most compelling discoveries in the history of 20th-century American art.
An Intriguing Literary Connection
There is an astonishing resemblance between Pinajian and the hero in Kurt Vonnegut’s Bluebeard: The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, a 1987 novel about an eccentric painter. Both Pinajian and Karabekian, a.k.a. Bluebeard, were Armenian-Americans, raised by parents who survived the 1915 Armenian genocide of approximately one and a half million men, women and children, and made their way to the United States where they raised families during the Great Depression. Both men then served with the United States Army during World War II in the European theater, each earning the Bronze Star for valor. After the war, both abandoned their careers as illustrators for higher artistic pursuits, joined the Art Students League in New York, and hung out with the Abstract Expressionists at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village. Both eventually moved to Long Island’s East End near the ocean, where they kept their paintings tightly locked away in a garage.
Breaking Vonnegut’s character mold, Pinajian has now burst into the public eye, inciting a publicity storm with his arrival. His extraordinary artistic gifts have attracted the attention of art collectors, curators, and critics all over the world. Finally, the artist has found his audience.
The upcoming exhibition comes on the heels of news that Pinajian’s artwork has been chosen by the United States Department of State for an exhibition of American artists of Armenian heritage in the American Ambassador’s Residence in Yerevan, Armenia.