Jason Molfessis

Ileana Tounda Gallery

When Jason Molfessis moved from Greece to Paris in 1950, his relationship to modern technology was brought into sharp relief. Yet he continued to reference his ancient heritage, and more pertinently pre-Socratic philosophical thought, affirming the tenuous but persistent link in the Greek consciousness between the ancient and modern world. Molfessis’ oeuvre is comprised largely of installations, and this exhibition, dominated by the two large projects, Steel Ring and Fusion ‘C’ (both 1990), was characterized by a machine-made quality, exemplified by both the manufactured steel parts and the impeccably smooth texture of the opaque cast polyester slabs which alternately reflect shimmering pale blue-green and metallic tones.

With regard to modern technology, Molfessis specifically draws on the coded signs of the telex and the computer. For instance, the long passagelike linear formation of Fusion ‘C’, inspired by perforated telex tape, consisted of several polyester slabs placed vertically one next to the other at various intervals. Although the markings on the perforated tape constitute a coded language, which is complete in itself, it is not one that is legible to the untrained eye. It is a 20th-century vocabulary, a new language that, in order to be understood, has first to be deciphered. In Fusion ‘C’, Molfessis literally attempted to make this language concrete, firstly, by resorting to the “broken” linear composition and secondly, by transcribing the pattern of dots and spaces found on the telex tape onto the relief surface of the molded sculptural slabs giving them a new visual legibility.

The sculptural syntax of solids and voids employed evokes an awareness of time and space, drawing attention to the fact that Molfessis’ work is based on a system of binaries such as light/dark, positive/negative, part and whole. By means of this “broken” composition he also refers to the fragmented way in which modern man experiences his world. However, by introducing the notion of the spatial unification of solids and voids, by giving them equal importance he expresses his resistance to this limited world view. For it is these parts or details—what Molfessis sometimes calls “ruins”—that contain all the attributes and qualities of the whole.

Molfessis attempts to transcend the concept of diachronic time, which is measured in terms of past, present, and future. To this end, he creates works that ostensibly resemble some unknown ruins of the future that are recognized as such only because they resemble ruins of the past. Steel Ring, for example, is evidently a part of an aircraft carrier’s cabin. Molfessis’ constant awareness of Greece’s history is manifest in his apparent refusal to distinguish between the past, present, and future. He attempts a temporal unification of these tenses by compressing them onto a single plane, alluding to both nothingness and eternity. This idea of time, as both finite and infinite, and existing outside the temporal process known by man, calls to mind the vivid opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” from his Four Quartets: “Time present and time past/are both perhaps present in time future./And time future contained in time past./If all time is eternally present/all time is unredeemable.”

Molfessis’ installation appeared to be part of some larger structure, a detail in which all the characteristics of a larger and complete work are reflected. Guided by this idea, Molfessis refers to these parts as details, complete in themselves, rather than fragments, which are only segments of the whole. Thus he suggests that within the ruins of the future are contained all the parts of the imagined whole, in which time is eternally synchronic; he dares to suggest a trajectory into the future based on his familiarity with and knowledge of the past.

Catherine Cafopoulos