New York

Stephen Antonakos

Kouros Gallery

Stephen Antonakos revealed here the expressive capabilities of light, the most clear and evincible of elements and one that, during a career now spanning three decades, has served as the artist’s dominant concern. In the group of nine panels featured in this show, he demonstrated anew how light touches on the more mystical realms of mind and spirit. Antonakos has constructed different sized wood panels, each with fronts that have been either painted or covered with gold leaf. Light cast by neon tubes attached to the backs of the pieces appears to create luminous extensions of the actual physical forms. At first glance, these abstract objects seem aloof. While careful study of such formal elements as edge and surface, texture and material yields some information, it is not enough to sustain our interest. Yet gradually the works’ intense spectral energies arouse curiosity. There is something exhilarating and a bit ineffable about them.

In an accompanying statement, Antonakos describes his interest in traditional Byzantine icons, stressing that what is important about them for him is “not knowledge about the particular saint or his iconography, but knowing about the surfaces of certain icons and their powerful, condensed emotional presence.” The artist’s ability to bring forth exactly that type of presence is what gives these works an aura of significance that is tied to the experience of the divine. St. John the Baptist, 1989, with its richly patterned blue surface surrounded by lilting passages of pink-and-purple neon light, may be read along devotional lines. St. Basil, 1989, in which Antonakos makes powerful use of gold leaf, has a radiance of surface, a vitality of form, that makes it a striking emblem of the divine world.

Ronny Cohen