EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. – J. Mackey Gallery in East Hampton is pleased to present “The Art of Arthur Pinajian.” The exhibition includes never before seen and rare works by the 20th century artist who went from obscurity to renown. Pinajian was called “a creative force” who “can be ranked among the best artists of his era” by the esteemed art historian Dr. William Innes Homer, who examined the work and associated Pinajian with a number of New York Abstract Expressionists, such as William de Kooning, Franz Kline and Philip Guston. Like so many artistic geniuses, however, Pinajian never received public attention in his lifetime.
This changed when chance connected 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 hold on to the work and later had it appraised. Peter Hastings Falk, editor and chief of ArtNet, valued the collection of Pinajian’s work at over $30 million.
The fascinating story of discovery, salvation and restoration of Pinajian’s work has become widely featured by national and international news outlets. “Good Morning America” proclaimed it “the unlikely discovery that rocked the art world.” ABC’s “20/20” reported that the “art experts decree Pinajian deserved to be called one of the great undiscovered geniuses of the Modern Art Movement,” and multiple articles in The New York Times led 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), the 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 received the Bronze Star for valor, he returned home to continue life as an artist. He attended the Art Student League in New York on the G.I. Bill.
Pinajian developed and eventually mastered his artistic style. His first studio was among the artist colony in Woodstock, New York, where his early work pulls on cubist references. It was during these formative years that Pinajian wrestled with his own unique style as a modern artist. His wide variety of work, ranging from the figurative to the abstract, conveys a playful yet colorfully fierce urgency to uncover all the facets of his own explorations. “It is satisfying to contemplate his more successful works, doubly so because they capture the excitement of visual modernism and exude a painterly integrity that is rare in our time,” said Dr. Homer.
In the 1970s, Pinajian moved from Union City to Bellport where he lived until his death in 1999. During his Bellport years, Pinajian continued to dedicate himself to his art. His color palette often turned to lighter colors than in the Woodstock years, and abstract lyrical landscapes featured prominently among his later works.
The Art of Arthur Pinajian exhibit at J. Mackey Gallery in East Hampton NY, will contain more than 30 works spanning over 40 years, including works never before publicly available. The show will be curated by Elizabeth Shaghalian Vranka, the former executive director of OSilas Gallery at Concordia College (Bronxville). In 2018, Vranka brought “The Pinajian Discovery: An Artist’s Life Revealed” to OSilas Gallery. Although she has always found his work and the “discovery story” compelling, Vranka’s appreciation of Pinajian has grown since the initial OSilas Gallery exhibition. She has subsequently featured Pinajian works in benefit events to support the Gallery and has purchased Pinajian paintings for her own collection. “While I am particularly drawn to the early Overlook Mountain abstract landscapes, which for Armenian Americans like me evoke the iconic landscape of Armenia, I am enthralled by some of his more representational works, such as the stunning landscape (No. D101) done in 1963 and the figurative paintings featured in the J. Mackey show.
For this show, both landscapes and figurative works were selected that are beautiful, impactful and dynamic.”
The public is invited to an opening reception at J. Mackey Gallery on May 21, 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Register online.