July 6, 2013

Sculptor Costas Coulentianos Retrospective Exhibition, MMCA, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece
Through July 26, 2013

The Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece, presents the great retrospective exhibition dedicated to COSTAS COULENTIANOS, which aims to present the entire work by the significant Greek sculptor. The exhibition is organized by the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and the Benaki Museum, in collaboration with the son of the artist, Ben Coulentianos and Theodoros Papapadopoulos. The exhibition was first presented in Athens at the Benaki Museum (28 September 2012 -5 January 2013) and had been a great success.

Sculptor Costas Coulentianos was born in Athens in 1918. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts and, later, in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where he studied under Ossip Zadkine. Costas Coulentianos met Henri Laurens, which had a definitive influence on a great many of his works. His first solo exhibition was held in Paris, in 1962, at a same time, he had started to discuss with architects, how sculpture could be included in architecture, both in public and in private spaces.

The exhibition showcases 80 pieces by the artist, which represent the entire gamut of his creative periods. These range from his first student pieces in the 1940s, when Costas Coulentianos still worked with clay, to the monumental pieces in iron from the last decades of his life. The exhibition seeks to renegotiate the artist's body of work as well as its historical role in the context of artistic production in Greece and internationally, his presence in Paris being catalyzing for contemporary sculpture. 

Issues including the variety of materials he utilised and the sculptural ease with which he handled them; his engagement with the human form; how he combined levels in both small and larger pieces; how cohesive his progress was to an ever more complete simplicity, all constitute fundamental issues both of the exhibition and the accompanying publication. 

Discussing his own oeuvre COSTAS COULENTIANOS stated:
The main material I utilise is iron, ever harder, heavier, more difficult to work with. At the same time I try to remove some of its crude weight and give it motion. My basic problem is space, light and volume. How can each piece be positioned in space and accept the light, so that it can gain significance? I attempt to open space through my forms, creating holes that will allow the light through, so that the space can enter the artefact, which shall, in its turn take its place within the space.
The art historian and curator of the exhibition DENYS ZACHAROPOULOS, artistic director of MMCA, analyzing the artist's work underlines:
From bronze to iron, welding to brazed iron, cement to aluminium, synthetic materials to wood, from wool and weaving to concrete reinforcing bars, stainless steel to bolted metal constructions, Coulentianos experimented, always reaching a stage where the development of "the other" is neither a mechanical repetition nor a mannerism of variation. The artist's work of all the different periods may be said to anticipate the future, not so that it may be original, but, on the contrary, in order to avoid the perennial need for a new patent in the development of sculpture. Every time that he engaged with a new medium he did so, not to rehabilitate an ailing sculpture, but, rather, in order to revive the desire and give life to a sculpture that keeps asking for more, that tries to stand on its own feet, to evolve, to grow, to embrace space, the other, man, the horizon, the world. A man facing a man, a man approaching a man, a man that knows how to stop before oppressing or violating the other, the human in Coulentianos's sculpture is inscribed in a profoundly political dialectic. Even as the artist's sculpture incomparably captures the sensuality that inspires the erotic nature of all human relationships, it also hails from a deep poetic awareness of a man who has experienced fascism and war, the most atrocious state of man when he abuses authority and tries to subject the other. In this respect, Coulentianos's work clearly demonstrates, alongside the sensual surrender to love, the power of resistance, which serves as a constant reminder of the precarious presence of the other, of alterity. Coulentianos is therefore not only the last of the modern acrobats, but, moreover, a fervent advocate of humanism, in the full platonic sense of the word, which fuses love for the other and rejection of war into a single unique awareness and a political stance, not of representation, but of presence, and into a discourse, not of "either-or", but of "you 'll find me in your way"; yet, that is not a threat, but almost a confession of love, a bold statement and demonstration of presence in life, of an active participation in the flux of life and the cosmos. This is the Coulentianos who installs sculptures in cooperation with architects in regional France, who deploys forms in the landscape that embrace the horizon and converse with the trees, who escapes upwards, towards the sky, envious of the flight of birds, who affectionately leans towards all human forms, with a bold, meaningful gesture of a man who offers his body and soul to the person before him.

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art
Egnatia 154 (on the grounds of Thessaloniki International Fair)
Museum's website: www.mmca.org