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Alecos Condopoulos (Greek, 1905-1975)
signed in Greek and dated (lower right)
acrylic on masonite
159 x 120cm
Private Collection, Connecticut (acquired directly from the artist)
Private Collection, New York (by descent from the above)
Condopoulos is the mastermind
of the new painting in Greece.
G. Dorfles, Domus, Paris 1959
1960 - featured prominently on the lower right corner of this engaging canvas- was a milestone year for Condopoulos. His showing at the 30th Venice Biennale met with resounding success and contributed significantly to the establishment of non-objective abstraction as the dominant language of Greek modernism. All the paintings included in the exhibition were acquired by European and American collectors, while a few years later, his entire body of work shown in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was purchased by the Forsythe Gallery. Critical reviews were equally enthusiastic, hailing him as a pioneer of postwar abstraction on an international level. Art critic Jean Paul Slusser, in his article "Traditional European Charm in Condopoulos' Abstract Painting," noted: "Condopoulos' art manifests all the gracefulness of oil painting to such a degree that today no American painter, not even a dedicated member of the New York School, can or could ever dream to accomplish."1
A work of remarkable compositional assurance, vaguely echoing the abstractive vocabulary of form and overall organization of his iconic Country House (1955), now at the Alpha Bank collection, Cour is a perfect example of the artist's mature style: voluminous geometric forms distributed along vertical and horizontal axes -reminiscent of his lifelong studies in ancient Greek art - complemented by free, apparently accidental, but essentially self-controlled brushstrokes. Logical association and expressive thrust, perfect order and pure emotion seem to coexist in a harmonious and creative way. This approach results in a kind of robust architectural structure set in motion while retaining a coherent inner rhythm.2 The vibrating texture contributes a smooth and steady beat to the movement, bringing the picture closer to music, an art form that expresses poetic feeling without referring to objective reality. As noted by former Athens National Gallery Director D. Papastamos, "having studied with great passion the ideal proportions and 'gold mean' of Ancient Greek art, it was impossible for Condopoulos to let himself be carried away by a frenzied game of colours deprived of any deeper meaning and contemplation." 3
Straight lines and shredded shapes, weighted colours and lyrical tones, solid volumes and gestural markings gently overlap and interlock in a quest for the perfect balance between order and emotion, rational structure and romantic expressiveness. Translating nature's volumes into planes of cool and hot colour, which not only structure the pictorial field but are also set in contrasting relation to one another, the painter invests the flatness and rigidity of the surface with a sense of dynamic, deep-breathing three-dimensionality that recalls the influential teachings of Hans Hofmann. Condopoulos himself once said that "the artist's goal is to orderly assemble disparate elements in order to discover poetic compositions of a given meter and rhythm." 4
This sense of poetic reverie and spiritual contemplation in a transcendental landscape lit by a strange, otherworldly light, charges the painting's subject matter with a strong metaphysical import, echoing Condopoulos' own words: "The true nature of a work of art is nothing less than a striving to transcend. The artist's conscience seeks to discover the secret relationships that bind humankind with the mythical and the transcendental and, following that, to express the very core of human existence along with anything else that can only be rendered through art." 5
Such emphasis on archetypal cosmic symbols imbued with everlasting value alludes to the eternal struggle between human nature and divine reason, reflecting the aspiration of abstract art to create a new visual cosmos and express through universal imagery the collective consciousness of mankind. However, as keenly pointed out by Professor S. Lydakis, "Condopoulos' abstraction did not acquire the expressionistic vehemence it took on in the West, nor did it adopt the purist-austere principles of constructivism, but rather adhered to a subjective poetic freedom, 'a subjective poetry', as the artist himself once said, that evolves without limitations in the infinite realm of imagination." 6
1. Reprinted in Greek, Zygos journal, no. VI-65, July 1965, p. 79.
2. See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art, The 20th Century, Athens 1999, pp. 154, 156.
3. D. Papastamos, 'The Abstract Imagery of Condopoulos' Painting' [in Greek] in Alecos Condopoulos 1905-1975, Aghia Paraskevi Municipal Cultural Centre, 1986.
4. A. Condopoulos, 26 Recent Paintings and a Brief Retrospect [in Greek], Athens Hilton Art Gallery, 1969.
5. A. Condopoulos, Making Art a Remembrance, Essays on Aesthetics [in Greek], Athens 1971, pp. 43-44.
6. S. Lydakis, Eorga, Alecos Condopoulos, the Man and his Work [in Greek], Melissa publ., Athens 1975, p. 14.