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About the artist
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."