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Marking Time

Stephen Antonakos
Marking Time
April 17 - September 25, 2021

19 Patriarchou Ioakim
4th floor
10675 Athens

(+30) 210 7235 226

Opening Hours
Tue, Thu, Fr: 11.00-20.00
Wed, Sat: 11.00-16.00

About the artist

Antonakos’s work with neon since 1960 has lent the medium new perceptual and formal meanings in hundreds of gallery and museum exhibitions first in New York and then internationally. His use of spare, complete and incomplete geometric neon forms has ranged from direct 3-D indoor installations to painted Canvases, Walls, the well-known backlit Panels with painted or gold surfaces, his Rooms and Chapels. Starting in the 1970s he installed over 55 architecturally scaled permanent Public Works in the USA, Europe, Israel, and Japan. Throughout, he conceived work in relation to its site —its scale, proportions, and character —and to the space that it shares with the viewer. He called his art, “real things in real spaces,” intending it to be seen without reference to anything outside the immediate visual and kinetic experience. Colored pencil drawings on paper and vellum, often in series, have been a major, rich practice since the 1950s; as has his extensive work with collage. Other major practices include the conceptual Packages, small-edition Artist’s Books, silver and white Reliefs, prints, and — since 2011 —several series of framed and 3-D Gold Works. Antonakos was born in the small Greek village of Agios Nikolaos in 1926 and moved to New York with his family in 1930. In the late 1940s, after returning from the US Army, he established his first studio in New York’s fur district. From the early 1960s forward, until the end in 2013, he worked in studios in Soho. "Stephen Antonakos: A Retrospective”’; organized by The J.F. Costopoulos Foundation; curated by Katerina Koskina; Benaki Museum, Pireos; December 2007 — March 2008.

About the exhibition

Stephen Antonakos (Greece, 1926 — New York, 2013) returns to Citronne Gallery with the solo exhibition “MARKING TIME” — a selected narrative through six directions of work, from the Project Drawings (1965-1973) through two iconic gold-leafed Neon Panels from 2009. The years between are “marked” by the suite of 4 silkscreened, torn, and collaged “Tears” of 1979; 3 crucial colored-pencil on French vellum drawings from 1980; 3 post-“ALPHAVITOS” white wood Reliefs from 1986; and several of the climactic Spring Series drawings from 2006 — each covered in “hatching” strokes in one color and then variously folded, cut, cut-out, or layered.

From their beginnings in the 1950s and throughout the decades, Antonakos's abstract geometries exhibited a natural sense of scale and a mastery of relating forms to each other and to their sites.

"Ι believe there is human meaning in basic abstract forms,
in their specific proportions and placements.
My work is real things in real spaces. Νο illusions."

From childhood he drew constantly and inventively, and drawing remained a major practice. With an innate rigor and led by a kinetic sense of readiness, he activated the given space. "The hand and the mind are one," he said. From the early 1950s, he worked in three dimensions as well. He is best known for his work with neon, begun toward the end of that decade with geometric shapes. Νο words, no images. Uniquely, he embraced and explored neon for its own qualities - intense color, flexibility, capacity for great scale, responsiveness to auxiliary light, and - crucially - indivisibility from space. These qualities are exemplified in the Direct Neons, Neon Panels, Neon Walls, Rooms, and Canvases; and in the over 50 architecturally-scaled Public Works that followed. Through the years, he composed collages and Travel Collages, conceived and realized the Packages, compiled ALPHAVITOS and other Artist's Books, and more. On each of his roads, he travelled long distances, usually for decades.

For Antonakos, the participation of the viewer was central. He hoped always to reach the inner person and considered that it was the experience of the viewer that completed a work. Α deeply religious man, his non-referential innovations with geometry, light, and space evolved in the late 1980s toward a sense of the spiritual. Meditation Spaces and Chapels became major themes. He made a series of Neon Panels with gold-leaf surfaces dedicated to Orthodox saints, with such titles as Resurrection. With elemental trust in the art's formal and material capacities, he worked from an awareness of the world toward a possible state of being in the presence of the art suggested by the Greek word isychίa - quiet, but alert - with senses open.

"I am a realist.
Ι am quite aware of today's and yesterday's injustices and losses. The goal is to live with energy, to fight the tragedies."

Stephen Antonakos

About the artist

1926 - 2013. Stephen Antonakos was born in 1926 in Agios Nikolaos, Laconia. In 1930, he settled with his family in New York where he lived and worked. He has been recognized since the early 1960s for his spare and spatial neon work and his extensive practice of drawings. A strict abstractionist, he characterized his work as "real things in real space" -- direct visual and spatial experience with no illusions, allusions, or references outside the art itself. Along with his major painted or gold-leaf Panels with colored neon light behind their edges and his works on paper and vellum, he is known for his Walls, Meditation Rooms, Chapels, and Artist's Books. For more than four decades he exhibited extensively in New York and throughout the United States, Greece and Europe. Since the late 1970s more than 45 of his large-scale permanent Public Works have been installed in the United States, Europe, and Japan. Irving Sandier's monograph ANTONAKOS was published in 1999 by Hudson Hills Press. In 2007 a retrospective exhibition of his work was presented in Athens, under the title ANTONAKOS: A RETROSPECTIVE. He died in New York in 2013.

About the exhibition

Antonakos's non-objective art has a strong minimalist character and an architectural presence. In the 1960s, he was among the first to use neon as a new material in sculpture. Antonakos has developed a vocabulary based on the dynamic tension between complete and incomplete geometric forms as well as vibrant colors. The dynamic configurations of geometric planes create sensations of motion and depth. In the exhibition at Citronne Gallery, through the presentation of neon, paintings, drawings, and sculptures-models, we aim to investigate the intermedium dialogue of his work as well as the conceptual development of his ideas.