CULTURE

Blood ‘Reds’ from Greek American Theodoros Stamos

A photo in a 1951 edition of Life magazine depicting a group of American avant-garde artists that had co-signed a letter protesting conservative policies at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art features three men in the front row: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Theodoros Stamos, the action group’s leaders. In the photo, it is difficult not to notice Stamos, an American artist of Greek descent, whose look is incisive, firm and conveys intention to break away from the ordinary. Stamos spent most of his life in New York City and did not become better acquainted with his homeland until late in life. This aspect contributes to making Stamos’s case particularly interesting. The work of Stamos, an abstract expressionist, which had an international impact, is on display at some of the USA’s most prominent museums. A show that opened just days ago in Athens at the Portalakis Collection gallery, includes work showcasing the final creative period in Stamos’s life between 1988 and 1994. These late-period paintings, in which the color red dominates, essentially mark the end of a cycle, one that reconnects with Stamos’s early work. They are part of the Infinity Field series, on which the Greek artist began working in the early 1970s and completed two years before his death in 1997. Stamos’s lines, over a blood-red canvas, break barriers and provoke observation. The artist’s objective was to delve into primitive images of the world, and through this, manifest the deeper essence of things, as well as the condition of his inner being. Stamos believed that every painting needed to be an adventure, a tool for self-investigation and study into one’s relationship with the world. «Since life on the outside becomes complicated, you must start simplifying it inside. I used to collect a whole lot of old things and be surrounded by them. That was until I began to unload to the point of now having a satisfying household with nothing in it. I want my paintings to also reflect his. That’s how I think, feel and, really, there is no other answer,» Stamos would often remark about his life and work. The Portalakis Collection gallery’s exhibition, featuring 18 paintings of the «Reds» series, comes as the natural result of a close friendship between the artist and Zacharias Portalakis, a stock broker and collector of modern Greek art. Portalakis, who owns the most substantial collection of works by Stamos – 250 works in total, including the entire «Reds» period of some 70 paintings – befriended the artist late in his life, in 1989, eight years before Stamos passed away. Portalakis had visited Stamos at his studio on the island of Lefkada in western Greece, which is where the collector first saw the artist’s «Reds» and felt captivated. Portalakis Collection gallery, 8 Pesmazoglou (8th floor), Athens.