Andreas Lolis, Untitled (detail), 2015, marble, clay, dimensions variable.

Andreas Lolis, Untitled (detail), 2015, marble, clay, dimensions variable.

Andreas Lolis

The Breeder

Andreas Lolis, Untitled (detail), 2015, marble, clay, dimensions variable.

At the Third Athens Biennale in 2011, a group of sculptures by Andreas Lolis, all Untitled, from the series “21st Century Relics,” 2011–, were positioned on the floor in one of the many abandoned classrooms of Diplareios, a former art and design school in a run-down part of the historic center of Athens. The works at first appeared to be ready-made cardboard boxes. In fact, closer inspection revealed these boxes to be marble, carved and painted by the artist himself. Visitors were compelled to take a second look; a few even dared to run a finger against the precious surfaces. Suddenly, the poorest objects in the room had become the richest, so expertly had one material been disguised as another.

Following this 2011 outing, Lolis staged a solo exhibition at Fizz Gallery in Athens in 2012, featuring more “cardboard” boxes, “polystyrene” slabs of various sizes, and a “wooden” shipping pallet. Yet, as beautiful as this show was, many visitors—even those who appreciate the time-consuming art of carving marble by hand—wondered how far Lolis could take this game of material inversion. Such concerns were quashed in Ralph Rugoff’s 2015 Biennale de Lyon, where Lolis presented Permanent Residence, 2015, which mimics the makeshift shelters made by those who live on the streets: assemblages of cartons, pallets, and polystyrene—all, as usual, made of marble, and each representing anywhere from one to three months’ work. Permanent Residence recalls Interior, 1974, by Vlassis Caniaris, which, like Lolis’s boxes, was shown at the 2011 Athens Biennale. Based on an immigrant’s home, it was displayed in a room that (as Frieze critic Despina Zefkili observed) overlooked “the DIY interventions of migrants living in the apartment buildings across the street.” As Caniaris’s assemblage was a monument to what are so often perceived to be unmonumental lives, so Lolis’s sculpture offered a clear statement of his single-minded focus on relating a classical material and technique to contemporary issues.

“Undercurrents,” Lolis’s latest solo exhibition, was another testament to this focus. Occupying the two levels of the Breeder’s renovated factory space, the exhibition opened on the ground floor with two pieces: a wooden (read: marble) ladder propped against the wall (all works Untitled, 2015) and a single slab of white marble carved to match the original wall, complete with cracks and peels, and attached to an existing column. In the basement gallery, the entire floor had been covered with clay and planted with a forest of bamboo-like (marble) wild cane. Laid only days before the opening, the clay was left to crack and warp as the exhibition continued. It was the first time Lolis has ever used this material—a surprising turn for an artist who has staked his claim on mastering the craft of giving marble an illusory life of its own. From the noble stone out of which the great temples and statues of the ancient world were fashioned, Lolis approached the porous ground upon which such creations emerged. Looking back in time to a kind of earthen source, he brought history forward into the present, too, recalling the legacy of civilization within the white cube, here rendered as an organic space where things might grow—not simply a room, but a potent, live space: Such is the sculptor’s alchemy.

Stephanie Bailey