Critics’ Picks

Eugenia Apostolou, Disembodiment, 2011, oil on canvas, 20 x 20”.

Athens

“Abstract Further Abstraction”

Contemporary Greek Art Institute
9 Valaoritou
February 2–April 7, 2012

Though positioned within the context of Greece’s politically charged present, this exhibition of six artists, curated by Maria Marangou, leaves politics at the gallery door placing abstraction and material interaction at its thematic core. Nevertheless, an unavoidable tension seeps in from the frenetic standstill that is Athens today. Aemilia Papaphilippou’s Fixed in Flux II, 2009, a frenzied video combination of television static, grids, and moving lines contained within a screen, contrasts with the paced, material metamorphosis of Eugenia Apostolou’s Disembodiment, 2011, a series of five canvases covered in thick, laboriously layered slabs of magenta-colored oil paint peeled back like flesh. The two works suggest opposite poles of immobility and motion, between which lies the middle ground of Margarita Myrogianni’s Deterioration, 2012, a photographic diptych of moistened clay blocks with chunks that have been pulled out, apparently only moments ago. Here, the artist’s invisible hand—the unseen compositional gesture—is both embedded in the materiality of the clay and contained within the photograph as temporal freeze-frame, perpetually caught in the present moment.

The containment of creative impulse and material interaction mediates a palpable sense of immediacy in the works in the exhibition. Exemplary of this is Kostas Sahpazis’s Palm, 2012, a Minimalist object made from layers of found materials (plastic, wood, and leather) in uniform shades of gray. A considered composition that achieves aesthetic simplicity, it shows how material disparity—and its accompanying tensions—might be mediated compositionally so as to manifest surprising beauty. Indeed, it is an affirmation that though transient, the action of composing matter into form can activate the transformative potential even of things deemed broken and worthless. Such an approach might provide some hope to the current situation in Greece—transcending material need not be a practice limited to art, after all.