‘Art Scene Athens’ catches up with Dimitrios Antonitsis – a curator and artist who has been illustriously active on the Greek art scene for 20 years now, and the mastermind behind the show ‘Integral II’, at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre:
I first met curator/artist Dimitrios Antonitsis two decades ago, when I had just started work at the ‘Athens News’. In fact back then, his colourful photographic portraits of transvestite/transgender people at the Zoumboulakis Gallery (his debut show in Athens), was the subject of my first piece for the aforementioned newspaper. “We were virgins back then!” he jokes, when I refer to this synergy, after our meeting at the current exhibition ‘Integral II’, of which he is the curator (together with Ileana Tounta and Galini Lazani). ‘Integral II’, runs till January 13 at the Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre – a beautifully designed space which boasts a great bar/restaurant too, thus offering to add culinary delights to your art experience.
‘Integral II’ is the sequel to ‘Integral I’ (which ran April 4-June 3, 2017); both shows counterbalance works by artists of different generations who deal with crises of sorts: either former or the current Greek debt crisis, which started in 2010. And although we are still under its stranglehold, Greek artists have shown their resilience and their insistence that these times of crisis are also creative, nevertheless. Needless to say that it is becoming all the more clear that we are not in this alone – we are witnessing a growing global phenomenon.
A quote from Oscar Wilde’s play ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, (referred to in the press release for ‘Integral II’), sums up the vibe of the current show: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. And the dialogues between the artworks of both older heavyweights such as Jannis Kounellis, Lucas Samaras and George Lappas, with the younger artists in the show make for an exciting play between images, mediums, means of expression and inspired forms of artistic ingenuity.
Upon entering the show on the ground floor, Jannis Kounellis ’ foreboding, somber yet grandiose installation greets you with its sacks of coal supporting a flat mound of coal – its centre pierced by a giant metal sheet. (This work was included in the ‘Antidoron’ show of Greek art that travelled to Kassel, as part of documenta14.) The metal sheet looks like a giant Color Field canvas gone grey. “On the ground floor colour is absent. There are large monumental works here. Kounellis is in dialogue with young artists who are also artistically liberated. Socrates Fatouros for example creates enormous works with bitumen sheets, whilst George Stamatakis’ paintings nearby also speak of liberation” explains Antonitsis, and adds: “A deadly atmosphere pervades, nevertheless the new artists, via their work create a new perspective on the crisis, and an optimistic point of view. This is what has to be emphasized – that there is hope.”
The monochromatic painted landscapes by Stamatakis, hark back to old sepia-coloured photos – their images partly erased, signifying perhaps the way that time blurs memory. Their browns connect with the colour of the burnt bitumen in Fatouros’ work, and the cool greyness of Kounellis’ industrial aesthetic.
Upstairs on the first floor however, there’s a burst of colour: “There is all this polychromatic work, but again a sense of the deadly too: Samaras’ ‘Reconstructions’ relate to the whole sewing process of burial cloths – traditions rooted in his birthplace of Kastoria, which he brought with him to New York. In the large red sculpture by Lappas, we see the artist depicting himself as a traveller. Rubbish becomes monumental in Andreas Lolis’ work, while Dimitris Andreadis deals with space in a dizzying manner” says Antonitsis.
The graphic arts influence the creative processes of Kostas Bassanos and Dimitris Baboulis, while a more Gothic, romantic look at the city is witnessed in the photographic work of Katerina Komianou, who tracks down some of the last surviving palm trees of Athens, which had been originally planted in 2004, for the Olympic Games.
Antonitsis concludes about the show: “It’s an optimistic but also a realistic approach to the crisis”. Personally, I also enjoyed Katerina Kotsala’s mauve-tinted work entitled ‘The Flower Smells Disaster’: its purple hues could be associated with those 500 euro notes which are being phased out by the European Central Bank, yet at the same time the patterns of this work connect with Samaras’ ‘Reconstructions’, presented adjacently. Maybe this is where we find ourselves today, in the current crisis – in tandem between phasing out what held us back, and reconstruction.
• Participating artists: Dimitris Andreadis, Dimitris Baboulis, Kostas Bassanos, Socrates Fatouros, Dimitris Foutris, Katerina Komianou, Katerina Kotsala, Jannis Kounellis, George Lappas, Andreas Lolis, Lucas Samaras, George Stamatakis.
*Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Centre is on the cnr of Armatolon & 48 Klefton sts (nearest metro station: Ambelokipous). Tel: 210-643-9466. http://www.art-tounta.gr. Open Tues-Fri 3-8pm, Sat 12-4pm.