By Elizabeth Vranka, Executive Director, OSilas Gallery, Concordia College
Feb. 21, 2018: Come to OSilas Gallery on the campus of Concordia College at 11:00 am on Thursday, March 8, to hear noted art historian and curator Peter Hastings Falk tell the compelling story of Arthur Pinajian (1914-1944), an artist who died in obscurity but whose work has garnered attention from the international press, art historians, and collectors alike since it was discovered several years after his death. The lecture will be from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, and a light lunch will be included. Space is limited; click here to purchase tickets.
You will also learn about Mr. Falk’s other significant rediscovery projects and how other masters were saved from slipping through the cracks of art history to become appreciated today. During the lecture, Mr. Falk will give an insider’s view of valuing the work of a “rediscovered” artist such as Pinajian.
Mr. Falk is the curator of the exhibition The Pinajian Discovery: An Artist’s Life Revealed, which is on view in OSilas Gallery through March 17 and is free and open to the public. Mr. Falk’s massive three-volume opus, Who Was Who in American Art, was lauded by critics as “the most significant research tool ever published in the field” and won the Wittenborn Award for the best art reference book published in North America. Mr. Falk was recently quoted by Susan Chumski in her article "The Struggling Artist at 86," which appeared in the January 5, 2018, issue of the New York Times.
OSilas Gallery is pleased to be able to showcase the work of this talented recluse, whose obsession with art—creating it, thinking about it, writing about it—consumed his life. Pinajian devoted himself to art and created thousands of works on canvas, paper, and any other surface on which he could paint or draw, yet it appears he exhibited and sold his paintings only rarely.
When he died, he left behind stacks of canvases in a dirt-floor garage and the attic of his sister’s home in Bellport, Long Island. The artist had left instructions for his collection to be discarded in the town dump, but fortunately Lawrence E. Joseph bought the Bellport cottage in 2006 after Pinajian’s sister died and rescued the collection. Since its salvation, Pinajian’s work has garnered attention by international media—from articles in the New York Times and the Telegraph to a segment on Good Morning America—and has been admired by art historians and collectors.
Ten years ago, Professor William Innes Homer (1929-2012), a former chair of the Association of Historians of American Art, was asked by Mr. Joseph to examine a large collection of abstract landscape and figurative paintings by the highly gifted hermit artist. Soon a team of art historians was conducting research into the life and art of Arthur Pinajian. Homer stated, “When Pinajian hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.”
He concluded that Pinajian’s "life is, above all, a model for those who feel that they must follow their calling despite a lack of public acceptance. . . . When all is said and done, this oeuvre is important both because it represents an artist’s life in its totality and because within it is found a prize legacy that will endure for posterity.”
Pinajian grew up in an Armenian-American community in West Hoboken (Union City), New Jersey. He was a self-trained cartoonist and during the Great Depression became a pioneer in a new medium: the comic book. He wrote and drew for a number of publishers, including Marvel, and in 1940 created Madam Fatal, the first cross-dressing superhero, for Crack Comics.
Pinajian fought in World War II, and after he returned to the United States, he decided to leave cartooning and dedicate himself to becoming a modernist artist. He used the G.I. Bill to enroll in the Art Students League in New York City to hone his craft.
For more than 20 years, Pinajian spent half the year living with his sister in New Jersey and the other half living and painting in Woodstock, where the Art Students League had its summer school and there was a thriving art community. In later years, Pinajian moved to Bellport with his sister, who financially supported him much of his life.
The Pinajian Discovery: An Artist’s Life Revealed features 37 of Pinajian’s abstract expressionist landscapes from both Woodstock and Bellport, the two primary locations where he painted, dating from 1958 to 1994. Many of the works on show are available for acquisition.
OSilas Gallery is located on the campus of Concordia College at 171 White Plains Road in Bronxville. For more information, please go to www.osilasgallery.org or contact Elizabeth Vranka at 914-337-9300, ext. 2173, or
. Please see www.osilasgallery.org for gallery hours and a full listing of exhibitions, lectures, and special events at the gallery.
Pictured here (from top): Peter Hastings Falk; Falk delivering remarks in OSilas Gallery at the opening reception of the exhibition on February 1; two of Pinajian's paintings in the exhibition; and Pinajian at Woodstock in 1960.
Photos courtesy Elizabeth Vranka, Executive Director, OSilas Gallery, Concordia College
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