Sunday, July 19, 2015

TAKIS, Solo at The Ménil

TAKIS: The Fourth Dimension at The Ménil Collection in Houston is dedicated to the Greek-born artist Panagiotis "Takis"  Vassilakis who, in his search for the fourth dimension, has produced works which defy the laws of gravity. This is the first museum survey in the United States for the sculptor who has a keen interest in science. He is better known in Europe and was recently featured at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris with an installation of his Magnetic Fields. The pieces selected for the show in Houston belong to The Ménil's permanent collection. The great anticipation which prompted my visit was somewhat dampened when I realized that the display filled only one room.
Overcoming my first impression, I progressed methodically, starting with the center piece, Ballet Magnetique I, 1961, a kinetic, hypnotic sculpture, featuring two suspended objects interacting with a central magnet placed on a base. The repetitive motion, energized by the electromagnet, draws rhythmic geometric patterns in space stirred by the "invisible force". Two glass shelves, one on each side of the entrance, are filled with small sculptures made in the early fifties, inspired by the art from the cycladic islands and Egyptian antiquities. Along the walls, Magnetic painting #7, 1962, is built with heavy objects made of iron. Attracted by a hidden magnet, they float in front of a monochrome yellow mustard canvas. Next is a piece of the same period, Tele-Peinture, 1966, aesthetically and technically less pleasing with its heavy black circle for background and protruding pieces of machinery. Facing these, two of The Ménil's latest acquisitions: Magnetic Wall- M.W. 038, 1999, a monochrome red painting using magnets to support coiled wires on the canvas and a musical piece, Musical-M.013, 2000, an hybrid composition adding sound to the visual experience. A collection of Signals running along the gallery length's wall completes the display. Like fragile stems, antennae toppled by small biomorphic or just plain geometric sculptures bend elegantly under their weight.The exhibition which assembles twenty-five pieces includes several Espaces Interieurs spread throughout the gallery. Made in the late fifties, the artist's first bronze sculptures are variations on the same theme, round shapes carved on the surface with deep lines arranged in different configurations.
As a whole, the exhibition is a resume of the artist's sixty plus years career span, assembling works from different periods, focusing on his roots with the early works, followed by the pieces which brought him to fame in the sixties. The proximity of the Cycladic statues in the nearby gallery may be fortuitous, but this is what The Ménil Collection is about: small exhibitions but significant and of great quality. This latest has succeeded in representing Takis's legacy. The artist, too busy creating art, is not interested in promoting his art: "It is a lot of energy to publicize yourself and rush to all the events. I don't complain about that because I wasn't interested in making money, I was interested in making art."
The artist is now ninety years old, and deserves to be better known on this continent. What makes him stand out is his faith in the mission of the artist as a demi-god who conquers invisible forces and transcends the matter by manipulating the laws of gravity.

No photographs allowed
photographs from catalogue

"Magnetic Painting #7", 1962
"Ballet Magnetique I", 1961

Due to time constraints, the blog was published after the close of the exhibition.

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