“Metro: New Trends In Contemporary Greek Art 1999”

Deste Foundation

“Metro,” not “Metropolis” (a title used by curators Christos Joachimides and Norman Rosenthal for a 1991 show in Berlin), was the name Dan Cameron gave to the exhibition he curated for the Deste Foundation. This truncated word was an accurate expression of the concept governing Cameron’s show: the end of the metropolis, or center of the city, as the traditional engine of culture, in the face of globalization, bolstered by digital communication systems that render one’s physical location inconsequential and privilege one’s ability to “connect.”

Cameron chose nine young artists, born between 1962 and 1974, who work in a diverse range of media, although technology could be seen as a common denominator. Their work revolves around a shared group of themes: situations of dislocation; expressions of extreme subjectivity; the hovering threat of destruction of some kind; feelings of insecurity and alienation; and, finally, relationships with both the personal and the communal environment—all in all, concerns that are ubiquitous in contemporary artistic practice.

The only paintings on view were brightly colored, seemingly carefree yet pathos-filled canvases by Maurice Ganis, but other artists revealed a preoccupation with creating moving painterly images. Panayota Tzamourani works in video, but her approach to the medium is almost formalist: Her footage of everyday objects—window blinds, for example—becomes an abstract meditation on color, texture, and shape. Deanna Maganias also engages vernacular elements, but to vastly different effect. Her exquisitely crafted models tamper with scale, creating a disconcerting sense of displacement (for instance, a miniature pink-tiled room contains an oversize bar of soap). Despina Isaia creates another kind of dissonance in a series of works based on a pink satin comforter from her childhood. After asking several friends to imagine their own “objects of dependence,” she realized their descriptions—a boxing robe, an elongated pillow, a straitjacket—in pink satin. This projection of her personal insecurities and means of gratification onto others is revealed to be a form of total subjectivity: Neither her blanket nor its comforts can be consigned to others. The accompanying short video of Isaia playing with her comforter is surprisingly captivating.

Isolation is also central to the images of Alexandros Georgiou, a Greek artist who lives in New York. Georgiou photographs nude male figures, cuts them out, places these tiny “paper dolls” within the “landscape” of his studio, and then rephotographs them. The results are pictures of fabricated Lilliputians who have been plucked out of context and repositioned in a world that is much too big for them—perhaps an expression of the artist’s own sense of dislocation in his new surroundings.

Kostas Ioannidis’s installation Baklavan, 1999, merges the political with the personal: In a dark room, a tray full of baklava bakes in an outdated, “petit bourgeois” stove until it burns, accompanied by the sound of young children’s cries and a lion’s deafening roar. By systematically ruining a pastry made in the Balkans and the Middle East, the work conjures the threat of war over a politically explosive region. At the same time, the myth of familial bliss, evoked by the homely aroma of baking, is menaced by the violent (paternal?) ranting of the beast.

Harmony and discord are juxtaposed in a different way in Dimitris Tsoublekas’s fastidiously executed but off-key photographs. The aesthetic perfection in the pictures initially conceals their ordered disorder—houses floating across the sky, a strip of pavement running through an otherwise pristine living room—momentarily holding their irony at bay.

From Lina Theodorou’s pointed interpretations of the instructions available on the Internet for do-it-yourself bombs, to the empty, alluring landscapes and narratively ambiguous interior scenes of Panos Kokkinias, who infuses his photographs with an aura of filmlike suspense, the concerns projected by the artists in “Metro” prove their proximity to artists working anywhere in the world.

Catherine Cafopoulos