Saturday, November 26, 2016

Whistle While you Work

At the NOVA sector of Art Basel | Miami Beach (2016), Kalfayan Galleries present a curated solo exhibition of Kostis Velonis (b.1968), a thought-provoking research on sociopolitical theories reflecting the artist's Greek heritage and his recent experiences in Mexico.
Following the artist's three-month residency in 2016 at Casa Maauad in Mexico City Velonis' solo  show titled 'Part Company' explored antithetical approaches to community living and social participation by two distinct figures of Mexican Modernism, Greek-Mexican activist Plotino Rhodakanaty (1828-1892) and Mexican artist of German origin Mathias Goeritz (1915-1990).

Velonis work explores a broader context around class identity and the beauty of the trivial, through an emergency sculpture, encompassing rather than isolating aesthetics and politics. Kostis Velonis' solo presentation at NOVA consists mainly of new works, specifically created for the Art Basel Miami Beach: works on canvas from the "Trade Union Conflicts" series are juxtaposed to sculptures from the "Puppetry for Long Distance People" series and sculptures/ paintings from the series titled "Whistle While you Work". His work interrogates the ideological orientations of avant-garde movements during the 20th century, which saw art as a practice for social purposes. Velonis' work reminds us domesticity which was easily dismissed as it was in the heyday of modernism, when it was considered a failed and outdated value system among the upper and middle classes. Apart from historical connotations, the playful narrations and "awkward" craftsmanship of Velonis' sculptures demythicize the "revolutionary" rhetoric and ideological taboos of contemporary "political art". At the same time they are opening themselves to narratives of rural life and determine a time line prior to but also parallel to modernity.
Velonis' construction materials remain raw - often unpainted pine boards or humble construction materials scavenged from suburban areas, placed alongside readymade unidentified objects. The practices of scavenging, DIY and bricolage offer experiences related to the cultivation of anonymous folk design, drawing from already existing forms and structures. Revealing his training as an architect, the works sometimes represent carefully designed – almost monumental, one could say – responses in wood and brick and other times challenge the vertical structure of sculptural construction revealing its formless and primitive shape with remnants of steel reinforced concrete, clay and marble.

In dialogue with constructions that make visible conditions of ephemerality are paintings from the artist's series titled "Whistle While you Work" (from Walt Disney's 1937 film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"), a colorful socio political commentary on contemporary work ethic and the apotheosis of workers' productivity. These paintings, evoking an ironic optimism about the improvement of worker's performance while whistling in their workplace, are combined with Velonis' sculptures, like studies on issues of a controversial life between the pursuit of happiness and the experience of suffering. Velonis in his most recent production of paintings and sculptures borrows his stylistic vocabulary from modern masters of abstraction reconceptualising their appetite for formalism towards a Mediterranean trope with motifs from Greek folklore, inventing a  literature of the South focused on self-sufficiency and simplicity of rural life.

Art Basel
Miami Beach, Dec.1-4
Kostis Velonis
Nova section /Booth N28