Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yaghjian and Johnson

Yesterday Janne and I went to the Edward Yaghjian retrospective exhibit at The State Museum. It includes over 100 of his paintings and drawings over his career from the 1930's in New York to the 50's-80's in Columbia. He was born in Armenia in 1905, but moved to the U.S. at an early age. After painting with the "Ash Can School" in New York under the guidance of John Sloan and others, he moved to Columbia to become chair of the art department, a position he held until retirement. He died in 1997. His early work realistically depicts life in New York, often panoramic scenes of buildings and harbors. His later work took on brighter, almost Fauve-like colors and became rather stylized, almost primitive in nature. He maintained his emphasis on architecture and cityscapes, often ramshackle.

Columbia scenes by Yaghjian

Interestingly, paintings of the the South Carolina painter William Johnson, born in 1901 in Florence, only a few years earlier than Yaghjian, also show a marked shift from realism to primitivism, as seen in the early self portrait above in contrast to the bright painting next to it, "Blind Singer." Johnson, like Yaghjian, worked for a while in New York. In 1926 he moved to Paris and was influenced by Gaugin, Soutine, and the Expressionists. He married a Danish woman and lived several years in Scandinavia. He achieved only spotty critical success during his life. He became mentally ill and spent most of his last two decades in mental institutions, dying in 1970.

Robert Pinsky on Difficult Poetry

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