Á destination signed and dated 'Gaitis 69' (lower right) oil on canvas 144 x 112 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Athens.
Exhibited: Athens, New Gallery, 18 April - 5 May, 1969 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).
Literature: Nikos Papadakis, Gaitis, Un créateur révolutionnaire, Polyplano editions, Athens 1980 (illustrated). Yannis Gaitis Catalogue Raisonné, Angers 2003, no 1022, p. 254 (illustrated). Contemporary Greek Art, Painters-Sculptors-Engravers, Ora Art Centre Publications, Athens 1970, p. 61 (illustrated). Chroniko 1970, Ora Art Centre Publications, Athens 1970, p. 191 (illustrated). D. Zacharopoulos, Yiannis Gaitis, Ta Nea Publications, Athens 2008, p. 77 (illustrated).
An emblematic and critically acute work included in the artist's legendary 1969 exhibition at the New Gallery on Tsakalof Street in Athens, A Destination blends European avant-garde trends with Greek cultural and political experiences. As noted by art critic D. Zacharopoulos, Gaitis' motionless figures, together with Caniaris' plaster-soaked red carnations -exhibited at the same gallery just a few days later - were two highly symbolic artistic statements that publicly castigated the colonels' regime, putting an end to the silence of the Greek intelligentsia.1
Besides referring to art's liberating power vis-à-vis violence and oppression, A Destination showcases the emergence of the stereotypical human figure as the artist's signature ideogram. "It is a period during which Gaitis, freed from the oppression of texture and colour, paints "life" and its "crowds". His man-symbol is a means to address all people on the planet using a universal language. His work invites the viewer into the pictorial space, raising social awareness rather than functioning as a mere decorative object meant to be hung on a wall."2
Sober and hieratic but utterly unforgettable, these repetitive 'little men' rank among the most enduring images of Modern Greek art, capturing the spirit of the nascent age of automation and globalised uniformity in the 1960s and implying the eventual loss of individual identity in the nameless mass of an increasingly standardized world.3 However, the repetition of these 'upright dominoes in ivory and ebony'4 who look both as "stripe-clad prisoners and fluted Greek columns"5 may also allude to a quest for a universal code of communication and interpretation, just like the ancient Greeks struggled with a certain type of kouros to find an archetypal alphabet in art.6 As noted by former Athens National Gallery Director D. Papastamos, "based on his keen eye and exuberant personality, as well as his European training and profound knowledge of the Greek reality of his time, Gaitis managed to develop - beyond any sentimentality or outdated notions of Greekness in art - a distinct personal expressive language which is at the same time purely Greek yet both European and universal."7
1. See D. Zacharopoulos, Yiannis Gaitis, Ta Nea publ., Athens 2008, p. 88. 2. N. Papadakis, Yiannis Gaitis - a Revolutionary Artist, Polyplano publ., Athens 1980. 3. See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art - The 20th Century, Athens 1999, p. 174. 4. P. Seghers, Gaitis, Tram publ., Thessaloniki 1973. 5. Zacharopoulos, 'Yannis Gaïtis, Poésie et Vérité de son Oeuvre' in Catalogue Raisonné de Yannis Gaïtis, Athens 2003, p. 399. 6. See Papadakis. 7. D. Papastamos, Yiannis Gaïtis Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 1983.