EAST HAMPTON, NY – J. Mackey Gallery in East Hampton is pleased to present “The Art of Arthur Pinajian”. The exhibition includes previously unseen and rare works by the 20th century artist who rose from obscurity to fame. Pinajian has been called a “creative force” who “can be ranked among the best artists of his time” by the eminent art historian, Dr. William Innes Homer, who examined the work and associated Pinajian with a certain number of New York Abstract Expressionists, such as William de Kooning, Franz Kline and Philip Guston. Like so many artistic geniuses, however, Pinajian never caught the public eye during his lifetime.
That changed when chance linked Pinajian’s life’s work with Thomas Schultz and Lawrence Joseph. Schultz and Joseph, the current executive directors of the Pinajian Collection, purchased Pinajian’s home and studio in Bellport, Long Island, after the artist’s death. A collection of paintings by this unknown artist was found on the property and about to be discarded. The new owners of the property decided to keep the work and had it appraised afterwards. Peter Hastings Falk, editor and head of ArtNet, valued Pinajian’s collection of works at over $30 million.
The fascinating story of the discovery, salvation and restoration of Pinajian’s work has been widely reported in national and international media. “Good Morning America” proclaimed it “the unlikely find that shook the art world”. ABC’s “20/20” reported that “art expert Decree Pinajian deserves to be called one of the great undiscovered geniuses of the modern art movement“, and several articles in The New York Times paved the way for his first public exhibition and sale in 2013. Recently, the BBC explored Pinajian’s work in a February 2022 profile.
Pinajian (1914-1999), son of Armenian Genocide survivors and a native of Union City, New Jersey, was an indomitable artistic force. In the early 1930s, he worked as a self-taught illustrator for Marvel comics. After bravely serving his country in World War II, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery, he returned home to continue his life as an artist. He participated in the Art Student League in New York on the GI Bill.
Pinajian developed and eventually mastered his art style. His first studio was part of the artists’ colony in Woodstock, New York, where his early work drew on Cubist references. It was during these formative years that Pinajian struggled with his own unique style as a modern artist. Her wide variety of works, ranging from figurative to abstract, expresses a playful yet fierce and colorful urgency to discover all facets of her own explorations. “It is satisfying to contemplate his most successful works, especially as they capture the excitement of visual modernism and exude a painterly integrity rare in our time,” Dr. Homer said.
In the 1970s Pinajian moved from Union City to Bellport where he lived until his death in 1999. During his years in Bellport Pinajian continued to devote himself to his art. His color palette often veered towards lighter colors than in the Woodstock years, and abstract lyrical landscapes figured prominently among his later works.
The Art of Arthur Pinajian exhibit at the J. Mackey Gallery in East Hampton NY, will feature more than 30 works spanning over 40 years, including works never before accessible to the public. The exhibition will be curated by Elizabeth Shaghalian Vranka, former Executive Director of OSilas Gallery at Concordia College (Bronxville). In 2018, Vranka presented “Pinajian’s Discovery: An Artist’s Life Revealed” at OSilas Gallery. Although she has always found her work and the “story of discovery” captivating, Vranka’s appreciation for Pinajian has grown since the first OSilas gallery exhibition. She subsequently presented Pinajian’s works at benefit events in support of the Gallery and purchased Pinajian’s paintings for her own collection. “While I was particularly drawn to Overlook Mountain’s early abstract landscapes, which for Armenian Americans like me evoke the iconic landscape of Armenia, I am captivated by some of his most representative works, such as the magnificent landscape (No. D101) made in 1963 and the figurative paintings featured in the J. Mackey exhibition.
For this show, landscapes and figurative works have been selected that are beautiful, impactful and dynamic.
The public is invited to an opening reception at the J. Mackey Gallery on May 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. Register in line.