How does an artist express his opposition to a restricting, oppressing and inhuman political system? This very question is at the core of the exhibition Opposition — Art in dark times, 1967-1974. The tumultuous and irregular political situation that emerged in the mid 1960’s in Greece had as its tragic conclusion the dictatorship of 21 April 1967. The majority of artists of the time choose not to participate in any kind of cultural events as a way to express their opposition to the Colonels’s Junta and resist its legitimation. When abstention seemed to lead nowhere and began to lose its momentum, the artists changed their minds and broke their silence: they regrouped, they intervened and presented themselves to a public under a State of threat, policing and censorship.
Artists of the time moved either in traditional ways or oriented themselves towards more pioneering areas compared to mainstream Greek art of the period — like environments, installations, happenings, performance — exploring their means and materials and looking for participation and a reciprocal relationship with the audience. In a long series of older and recent works by artists who were politically active in both very visible or more discreet ways, the reports of the brutality and harshness of the military regime are their main subject. The esprit of critique, accusation and protest emerges sometimes in a direct and powerful way, in other times more obliquely and symbolically, but always raising crucial questions about the role of the creator and the work of art in critical times when freedom is at stake.
The exhibition focuses on the concepts of opposition and resistance as they are imprinted in the compositions of the New Greek Realists group (Gianis Valavanidis, Cleopatra Digka, Kiriakos Katzourakis, Hronis Mpotsoglou, Giannis Psychopaidis), as well as in the work of Ilias Dekoulakos, Asandour Baharian, Dimosthenis Kokkinidis, Vangelis Dimitreas, Dimos Skoulakis, Lefteris Kanakakis, Vaso Kiriaki and Sotiris Sorogas; in the tension seen in the engravings by Vaso Katraki and A. Tassou; in the events by Maria Karavela; in the graphic designs by Vouvoula Skoura; in the propositions by Vlasis Kaniaris, Konstantinos Xenakis, Giannis Gaitis, Dimitris Alitheinos and Leda Papakonstantinou. All these works open themselves up to a new dimension of protest, of a political and social intervention/act that is away from conventions and the dominant values and principles [of art].
The artworks are complemented by archival material like photographs, manuscripts, manifestos and exhibition catalogues of the period that offer guidance and reveal more about the presented works.
Opposition — Art in dark times, 1967-1974
Curation: Giannis Mpolis, Domna Gounari
Duration: 19 April - 23 June 2018
Hours: Tue-Fri 10:00-17:00, Sat 10:00-15:00
Contemporary Greek Art Institute ISET
9a Valaoritou Street
106 71 Athens, Greece
Text translated from the Greek and edited by und. Athens.
Giannis Gaitis (1923 - 1984), The Funeral of Che Guevara, or Metamorphosis, 1968. Oil on canvas, 129,5 x 161,5 cm. Photo provided by ISET.
Dimosthenis Skoulakis (1939 – 2014), Nikos Beloyiannis, "The Man with the Red Carnation", 1967. Oil on canvas, 45 x 35 cm. Photo provided by ISET.