Critics’ Picks

View of “Marina Xenofontos: But we’ve met before,” 2020.

View of “Marina Xenofontos: But we’ve met before,” 2020.


Marina Xenofontos

Hot Wheels Athens
Patision 41
September 26–November 28, 2020

The materials and techniques on view in “But we’ve met before,” Cypriot-born artist Marina Xenofontos’s first solo exhibition at Hot Wheels Athens, offer traces of cultural memories—not through any inquiry into recent political tensions over the divided island or any symbolic reference to its ancient history, but through a nostalgic evocation of a childhood spent in a sea between three continents. The works on view—tempera on gesso paintings and sculptures made from bronze, resin-encased muslin, and the ephemeral effects of natural light—register a tactical approach to storytelling unveiled by material processes. 

In Data Storage of a true spectrum (all works 2020), iridescent shards of compact discs revolve on a motorized axis, bending beams of sunlight onto the gallery wall in a realization of an illustrated depiction of an experiment from a children’s science textbook. Nearby, we find the centerpiece of the show: a seated wooden mannequin, digitally rendered, hunched over its own reflection on a mirrored tabletop. Close attention to the Narcissan figure’s assembly reveals markings—byproducts of the computerized laser cutting process—on the rounded parts of its surface. These methodical indications of process conjure the idiosyncrasies of embodied knowledge.  

Xenofontos returns to myth and its reiterations, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to children’s fairy tales, through acts of wayfinding and insinuation. The exhibition’s title, for instance, is inspired by a line of dialog introducing the song “Once Upon a Dream” from Disney’s animated “Sleeping Beauty” (1959). Done in egg tempera, Untitled and Transparent in its own opacity, TV was truth, it was the collective memory of an expanded tribe bear subtle traces of the artist’s formal training in Greek Orthodox icon painting. Through elusive archaism, Xenofontos sows narratives that, despite their schismatic attitude to the past, gracefully surrender to intimate recollection.