Revealing The Art Of Arthur Pinajian

by Florence Avakian

March 6, 2013

NEW YORK-An exhibition of Arthur Pinajian’s abstract paintings was
opened on Wed., Feb. 13 at the Antiquorum, on the fifth floor of the
Fuller Building, located at 41 East 57th Street in New York. The
exhibition is a revealing insight into the artistry of a painter
who has been compared to Arshile Gorky. A significant part of the
proceeds will support the work of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR)
in Armenia. The 34 paintings, which are available for purchase, will be
on exhibition and open to the public until March 10, Tuesday through
Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Also available is a catalogue
of his works, entitled Pinajian: Master of Abstraction Discovered,
with essays by well-known art scholars, and edited by art scholar
Peter Hastings Falk.

(L-R) Lawrence E. Joseph, Arto Vorperian, and Peter Hastings Falk.

A unique artist

During the opening night reception, FAR official Arto Vorperian
welcomed the close to 200 guests, which included museum officials,
art dealers, and art lovers. Peter Hastings Falk, the catalogue editor,
also spoke, revealing that Arthur Pinajian did not follow the route of
current artists who employ a retinue of agents, dealers, and business
people. Pinajian, in a word, “did not conform to today’s norms. He
painted every day, but no one saw his art. He received no reviews and
not one of his paintings or works on paper ever was shown in a New
York gallery or museum.” When he died, his art, which had been stored
in his garage, was left to be destroyed at his request. Fortunately,
it was rescued at the last minute, as the New York Times reported.

Although there are few people today who know of his brilliant
creativity, one couple at the opening reception related how they had
purchased a figurative painting many years ago from the artist for a
mere $100, “so that Pinajian could have money to purchase paint for
his work.” Today, his abstract paintings are on sale for $3,750 to
$87,000. A veteran art dealer at the exhibition predicted that in a
few years, the price would shoot up to more than three or four times
the amounts currently listed, as his fame spreads. It seems he was
an artist one reads about in novels or sees in films-that is, the
legendary starving artist who only sold paintings so that he could
buy materials needed to continue his work.

Arthur Pinajian, the child of Vartanoosh, a skilled embroiderer, and
her husband Hagop, who worked for a dry cleaner, was born in 1914,
with the name of Ashod in Union City, N.J. However, he preferred
his nickname, Archie. A precocious youngster, he excelled in school,
skipping grades, and possessed a voracious desire to draw with both
hands at the same time. Newly graduated from high school in 1930 at
age 16, during the Great Depression, with his father and uncle out
of work, he took a job as a clerk in a carpet company to support his
family. With the untimely death of his mother in 1932, he moved his
father and sister to a much smaller apartment in Long Island, warmed
only by a pot-belly stove.

A pioneer in cartoon art

Like many around him, the young Pinajian, seeking to escape from these
harsh circumstances, went to the movies; after seeing Paul Muni in
“Scarface,” he started his first comic strip. While still working
at the carpet firm, he was hired as a freelance cartoonist by Lud
Shabazian, a reporter-illustrator at the New York Daily News, and at
age 20, he was promoting himself as a commercial illustrator. Taking
only the sessions he could afford at the Art Students’ League and
with the aid of the G.I. Bill, he honed his skills in the medium of
the modern-day comic book. Regarded as among the pioneers of this
new medium, he achieved considerable success in writing and drawing
for such publishers as Quality, Marvel and Centaur, and working as
an illustrator for ad agencies.

Following his service in the U.S. Army in World War II, for which he
was awarded a Bronze Star, he was drawn to the works of the old and
modern art masters, and endlessly roamed through the Manhattan museums
and art galleries. For the last 26 years of his life, he devoted
his life completely to art, living in a tiny room. It was not until
eight years after his death, that Pinajian’s artistic works would
see the light of day. He was an artist who never used the tools of
marketability, or exploited commercial connections. Never interested
in fame, he was just too busy painting.

Artistic struggle

Pinajian’s art displays his emotional quest between figurative and
abstract art. His representational art focused on landscapes and
female nudes. Renowned art critic John Perreault writes that through
Pinajian’s writings, which were scribbled in notebooks or on small
bits of paper, we enter into his world of struggle and tension.

“Pinajian found no easy answers. Each painting is a puzzle and a
struggle, yielding light.”

The Pinajian story “is or could be the basis of a new myth, that of
the secret artist,” continues Perreault. “The secret artist lives
among us. He (or she) seems ordinary on the outside and gives little
sign of a hidden calling. Yet out of view, the secret artist toils,
producing painting after painting. The ecstasy is in the making.

Looking at Pinajian’s lifetime of work, we participate in that

The Fund for Armenian Relief, an organization founded following a
devastating earthquake in 1988, has served hundreds of thousands
of people through more than 225 relief and development programs
in Armenia and Artsakh (Karabagh). It has channeled more than $290
million in humanitarian and developmental assistance by implementing
a wide range of projects, including emergency relief, construction,
education, medical aid, and economic development.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS