Art that plays with light and communicates humor

Sculpture in the traditional sense brings to mind mass and solidity, an object that occupies space but also changes our perception of it. Yet the property of sculpture in molding space can also be affected by something as immaterial as light. This is a feeling that the viewer senses from some of the works on display in «Light Waves,» a group exhibition curated by art historian Vicki Politis on at the Kalfayan Gallery. Stephen Antonakos’s «Opening,» probably the highlight of the exhibition, provides an example. Antonakos, a pioneer of «light art» in the ’60s, has been exploring the capacity of light in space and architecture through mostly site-specific works. In the Athens exhibition, a rainbow range of neon light hues emanate behind an aluminum slate structured with varied edges and an aperture around its middle. The effect of amplifying the surrounding space creates a sense of soothing tranquility that is typical of Antonakos’s works. On the side opposite is one of Takis’s «signals,» one of the more industrial-like ones of the famous series. Takis is interested in an art that captures and emits energy (he studied electromagnetic fields), in this case the energy of light. Chryssa is the third of the exhibition’s eldest and most renowned artists. «Newspaper,» the title of one of her early works (1959-60), looks nothing like the larger sculptures that employ neon. It is a painting that bears the abstracted image of a newspaper page together with the last letters of the word «Classified» in the form of neon light tubes at the bottom of the painting. It is a play between the tradition of print with the more contemporary commercial signage. Takis, Chryssa and Antonakos are of the same generation. They all reached their prominence in the ’60s and worked within the broader frame of kinetic and light art. In that sense they pull the exhibition together by building a common thread among what is a varied and perhaps uneven presentation. A bench made with neon tubes that bear lines out of Shakespeare’s «Romeo and Juliet» is an interesting work containing wistful allusions to solitude. Vassilis Geros’s tall plexiglass columns that contain different shapes and colors are intricate plays on geometry and optical illusion. One of the most immediately eye-catching works is a composition made of same-sized planks of wood, which artist Christos Bokoros has painted in different colors of such candlelight luminosity as to impart the impression that they are lit from within. The painted candle flickerings enhance that optical illusion. Annita Xanthou uses light to reveal the immaterial side of objects, either their shadow or light reflections. Nakis Tastsioglou combines metal and plexiglass within the same work and sets off solidity with transparency. Marios Spiliopoulos backlights a sepia-tinted photograph. Light becomes a symbolic means for enlivening the past and our memories of it. One of the exhibition’s lightest and more humorous works is by Konstantinos Kakanias, who has written the name «Tependris» (the fictional muse depicted in his paintings) in neon across the wall. From the more spiritual-like work of Antonakos down to the fun work of Kakanias, «Light Waves» may occasionally be uneven, but is balanced by its wide variety of artworks. Humor in art The Kalfayan Gallery has organized another group exhibition, this time at its branch in Thessaloniki. Also curated by Vicki Politis, «Communicating with Humor» is an exhibition filled with the comical and the satirical. It includes works by two of the most famous Greek caricaturists, the late artists Minos Argyrakis and Bost. An ink drawing by Argyrakis pokes fun at a profit-making Orthodox Church. Bost inserts speech bubbles with extensive stories written in them. The constant misspellings, so typical of Bost’s naif style, are as amusing as the detailed drawings of human caricatures. Antonis Kyriakoulis continues the tradition of Argyrakis and Bost, although he is not considered a typical caricaturist. His paintings satirize social vanity and pomposity. The art world – especially art critics and curators – is a subject of mockery in the work of Marios Spiliopoulos, Tasos Pavlopoulos and Diamantis Aidinis. In his sculptures, Anthony Michaelides combines heterogeneous objects to create a surreal effect. The sculptural, colorful papiers mache by Yiannis Pavlidis imitate the female figure and poke fun at the impossible beauty standards that are imposed on women. Lambros Psirrakis’s works are characterized by their multi-layered surfaces and mixed-media technique (ribbons woven on canvas) more than their humor. A childlike longing for innocence and a dreamlike world that a chair by the late Alexis Akrithakis evokes will probably bring a tender smile to the viewer. Closer to straight humor, one of Konstantinos Kakanias’s watercolors on the vain and amusing adventures of Mrs Tependris reminds one of the light yet deeply corrosive aspects of life. Good humor, after all, is the outcome of a critical perspective and this is what the Kalfayan exhibition helps put across. «Light Waves» at the Kalfayan Gallery in Athens (6 Kapsali, tel 210.721.7679) and «Communicating with Humor» at the Thessaloniki branch (43 Proxenou Koromila, tel 2310.231.187), both till October 1.

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