‘Torso,’ sculptures by a painter

A painter’s first step into the medium of sculpture is captured in «Torso,» the recent work by Dutch-born artist Mylene Maltou. On view for a few more days at the recently opened Kleisthenous gallery, the exhibition is structured in two parts: one includes a group of sculptures made of plaster, gauze and cigarette butts that depict painted human torsos, and the other an installation which consists of a video filming the daytime commotion in the center of Athens projected on five white-painted torsos. An unusual arrangement creates an interesting, atmospheric effect to works of an otherwise classic shape used in sculpture. Set at an angle in each of the gallery’s rooms, the torsos are tightly grouped together, an arrangement that helps animate them and evoke the sense of a human crowd. The video projection that shows urban activity along neighboring Athinas Street, enhances this effect of urbanity. «Torso» seems a body of work inspired by everyday life in the city and its people, the anonymous crowd and a subtle feeling of urban estrangement. It is about our daily surroundings and things familiar yet not fully explored. But it is also about linking the present with history and the past. Evocative of ancient Greek figurative sculpture, the torsos seem like recently excavated archaeological remnants. The sound of grasshoppers heard in one of the gallery’s rooms makes one think of those familiar summer visits to Greek archaeological sites. It helps create a Mediterranean, nostalgic yet relaxed feeling. Modern yet classical at the same time, this is an exhibition that captures the mood of this city caught as it is between its past and contemporaneity. Besides content, what is also interesting about this group of sculptures is the use of bold colors. Maltou’s distinctive feel for unusual hues and color combination which have typified her paintings has also imbued her sculptures. This is an artist who sculpts as a painter, paying little attention to mass and solidity but more to the surface’s texture and color. The combination of color with the relief effect of cigarette butts marks the first group of torsos, while the other is about the textural variations effected by the use of white gauze on a surface that is left white. With this work she has taken her relief-like paintings a step further, making them three-dimensional but not all-around sculpture (the back of them is void). Maltou says that she is interested in forms that are «strong yet light.» Her torsos move in that direction, and in the case of the video installation actually seem completely weightless and immaterial. Seen as a whole, they are a painter’s first concerted effort at making sculpture. At the Kleisthenous gallery (9 Kleisthenous, behind Athinas Street, 210.522.9765) through April 7.

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