Rooms with a view: Young artists display visions of self and space

Every year since 1999, the Kappatos Gallery in Athens has organized an exhibition on young artists and curators. It is a systematic effort aimed at giving the opportunity to emerging artists in the visual sphere to convey their ideas to a broad public. As it turns out, it is also one of the freshest concepts on the Athens contemporary art scene that has received eager response from the art public. «20 Rooms 2003,» which is this year’s exhibition, is probably the biggest ever. Held for the second time at the St George Lycabettus Hotel in Kolonaki, the exhibition shows 20 works, each installed in each of 20 rooms on the hotel’s fourth floor, to be renovated as soon as the exhibition ends at the end of the week. One of the interesting aspects of the exhibition is the very choice of the particular hotel as an exhibition space. The wonderful views of Athens and the Acropolis that most of the rooms have creates an interesting situation where architecture, the urban landscape and the city’s atmosphere help the understanding of art as part of the city’s life. At the same time, the exhibition’s compartmentalization into small, different rooms allows the viewer to look at the works in privacy. Most of the works are by artists or curators in their mid-twenties or early thirties (each curator presents an artist of his choice), but there are also a small number of more established names in the field, which give the exhibition variety and also act as encouragement and support. Ranging from painting to videos, installations and photography, the exhibition is meant to capture the diversity of contemporary art. It is young and refreshing with pleasant pauses and changes in mood. One of the most engaging works is an installation by Christodoulos Panayiotou presented by curator Yiannis Toumazis – both Cypriot. The double projection showing the vertical fall of an airplane is combined with sound taken from old movies and, in another corner of the room, the barely audible crackling of fireworks. The installation, which extends to the bathroom, alludes to loneliness and abandonment in a lyrical yet restrained way that is both melancholic and remote. The artistic duo of Aris and Lakis Ionas selected by Nayia Yiakoumaki have used common, utilitarian materials (plastic crates, a broom, a bucket) to create a pseudo-stage for a music band and actually performed on the evening of the exhibition’s opening. The work evokes the sweetness and naivete of childhood but also blends humor with nostalgia. Curator Effi Strousa, one of the most established names in the field, chose Toner, a group of four artists bound by their interest in audiovisual works whose installation at the exhibition addresses the place of technology in our lives. Another artistic collaboration between two artists jointly presented by the name Tramountanemodoura – Daphne Vitali is the curator – present a video that comments on authority acquired via the class system as well as shifting social roles. Back to the theme of technology, Nikos Goulis, presented by Lina Tsikouta, shows a 3D animation projection about robotics. On a completely different note, Daphne Barbageorgopoulou’s (the artist is selected by curator Gianna Plainioti) large hay plough brings into a city hotel a whiff of rural life. Several works make strong allusions to the human body. The well-known dancer and choreographer Constantinos Rigos, whom curator Nadia Argyropoulou has included in the exhibition, has filled his own hotel room with images – of videos or photographs of his body, thus playing with the idea of physical absence and the immaterial through something wholly corporeal. Artist Antonis Christodoulou, selected by curator Maria Marangou, also portrays himself in his own works; in the photographic installation presented at the exhibition, he casts himself in roles taken out of famous movies. Paintings and drawings are also prominent in the exhibition. Rallou Panayiotou, presented by Christoforos Marinos, has emptied one of the 20 hotel rooms and covered it throughout with black-and-white drawings of a woman’s body. Artist Stelios Faitakis – the curator is Iota Constandatou – has painted the upper section of the walls of the room with images that fall somewhere between graffiti and wall painting. Curator Thouli Misirloglou presents artist Nikolas Arvanitis, whose monochromatic paintings make strange allusions to ecology. By contrast, the paintings by Stelios Avgeris – Haris Savvopoulos is the curator – are colorful and filled with surrealistic associations. Small, colorful paintings are exhibited by Alexis Kazazis, presented by curator Lia Yoka. Albertin Trichon, proposed by Irini Savvani, has painted images of Athens’s blocks of flats while Vassilis Karouk – the curator is Angeliki Maragkoudaki – has turned a dark, enclosed space into an equally dark and restless painting installation. The installation gives off a disturbing feel as does the work by Costas Zapas (with Katerina Koskina as curator), a video which examines the sexual constraints associated with familial ties. Most of the works at the exhibition address space. Maria Mitsopoulou, presented by curator Sania Papa, has plunged the room of a hotel into complete disorder and examines the contrast between an impersonal hotel room and domestic space. Nikos Kanarelis – the curator is Polina Kosmadaki – speculates on how objects, interior decoration and space define one another. Dimitris Ioannou, presented by curator Xenia Kalpaktsoglou, has the viewer manipulate the colors that emanate out of a white frame, thus raising awareness on interaction and the subjective perception of art. Eleni Kamma, presented by curator Margarita Kataga, appropriates symbols of the past and paints them in new contexts to makes us think of how our reading of culture and history changes through time. Varied and pleasant to view, «20 Rooms 2003» captures the energy of young artists at the beginnings of their careers. At the St George Lycabettus Hotel (Dexameni, Kolonaki, 210.729.0711), held by the Kappatos Gallery (210.321.7931) to Sunday, from 2-10 p.m. daily.