June 26, 2014 - 11:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The works of Arthur Pinajian (1914-1999) will be showcased in the 14th Annual Art Santa Fe - New Mexico Fair by Stephanie’s Art Gallery, Inc. Pinajian was a virtual hermit whose life’s work had been relegated to the garbage but rescued just in time. Art historians nationwide are still expressing astonishment that works of such caliber could have remained completely unknown.
The Art Santa Fe will run from July 10-13, 2014 at the Santa Fe convention Center. Stephanie’s Art Gallery will display Pinajian’s work in booth. Executive Director Linda Stepanian is proud to showcase a selection of both early and late works by the much-lauded artist.
After Pinajian’s death in 1999, five decades of accumulated artwork were found stacked up in the one-car garage and attic of the Bellport, Long Island, cottage he shared with his sister. He had left instructions for his collection to be discarded in the town dump. At the last moment, Pinajian’s cousin refused to let the garbage truck haul away the paintings. Instead, Professor William Innes Homer [1929-2012], then Dean of American Art Historians, was asked to examine the life’s work of the unknown artist and was stunned by what he found: a large body of extraordinary abstract landscape and figurative paintings by a gifted artist who was completely unknown in his lifetime. Homer urged art historian Paster Hastings Falk to head the project, and soon a team of art historians was conducting research into the life and art of Arthur Pinajian.
As a boy growing up 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 knew 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 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. 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 Homer, art critic John Perreault, conservator Jonathan Sherman, bestselling author Lawrence E. Joseph, owner of the collection, and Pinajian’s cousin, Peter Najarian. The collective essays present one of the most compelling discoveries in the history of 20th-century American art. Dr. Homer writes: “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.”
Dr. Homer concluded, “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 . . . His life is, above all, a model for those who feel that they must follow their calling despite a lack of public acceptance.”