Freddy Carabott’s ‘Red & Blue’

Freddy Carabott doesn’t really like the Greek word for graphic designer. «Grafistas,» he says, reminds him of «kitharistas,» «masistas» and «fasistas» – guitar player, masseur and fascist respectively. A pioneer of his craft, his sense of humor and energy levels remain high. Along with Agni and Michalis Katzourakis, in the 1960s and 70s, Carabott made the Greek public aware of a new visual language of colors, symbols and references. His posters for the promotion of Greek tourism distilled the spirit of an era and are still regarded as models of simplicity and freshness. A gifted painter, Carabott however never abandoned his brushes. An exhibition of his painting opened at the Skoufa Gallery earlier this week. «Red & Blue» showcases works with Aegean and London themes, all executed in Akrata, in the Gulf of Corinth, his home base for the last few years. «I first came across the area in 1961 – my parents used to spend their summer vacation there. I used to go there whenever I felt like getting away from advertising’s hectic rhythm. Even during the 60s, the beach was full of umbrellas and noise. I used to take my hat and straw mat and walk for hours, until one day, I discovered paradise – I ended up building my house a little further down.» The man who identified himself with the golden era of graphic design went into isolation for good reason: «Contemporary Greece is a very difficult and unpleasant country. I have been so hurt and annoyed by its sad state that I don’t want to say anything more. When asked by foreigners what my country is like, I just use the term ‘picturesque.’ I have to admit, however, that I have scruples. I’m fully aware of the fact that our tempting posters for the Greek National Tourism Organization made an impression but at the same time contributed to the destruction of the glorious Aegean landscape. When I go on vacation nowadays, I use selective vision. My only consolation is a few, scattered beautiful moments. Last summer on Andros, for instance, I was sitting at a friend’s terrace drinking tsipouro. In front of us was a wrought-iron fence and beyond that, the infinite blue. That’s when I got inspired for the collection I’m presenting now.» In the exhibition’s foreword, Carabott notes that his aim was to find some peace in the Aegean. «I was very much affected by last December’s events. I know that some people praised the young troublemakers for busting window displays and burning down the city. I disagree with them. When I was their age, during the German Occupation, we had the courage to stand up to the Nazis and face machine guns, as opposed to today’s inactive police force,» says Carabott, who took part in the resistance movement of 1942-45 and was imprisoned and taken to Germany as a hostage. As a member of a gifted generation, Carabott lived through the creative spirit of the 1950s: «We were ready to expect good things. Anticipation renders you positive, creative and optimistic. The expectations that developed in the aftermath of World War II became our fuel. The situation today is hopeless. There are a lot of things that I miss from the past, especially the notion of dignity, how to be a gentleman.» Skoufa Gallery, 4 Skoufa, tel 210.360.3541.