Cris Gianakos: Works on Mylar 1983–1989
On ViewMinus Space
Works on Mylar 1983–1989
Part 2: February 18–March 25, 2023
The concept of chance has long been a well-known attribute in art, not only for figures such as Marcel Duchamp or the avant-garde composer John Cage, but for other artists like the Greek-American multi-media artist Cris Gianakos, whose work is currently on view at MINUS SPACE. Given the latter’s desire for invention and discovery, it is no surprise that his encounter with a sheet of heavy-duty Mylar in a colleague’s printing studio would suggest important new ways of working. This came to involve Gianakos’s numerous creative interests, including photography, performance, painting, and—for a few selected devotees—an inventive series of Post-Minimalist sculptures, which the artist referred to as “RAMPWORKS.”
In the process of working within or between these divergent areas of investigation, Gianakos accidentally discovered that Mylar suggested the possibility of form beyond those traditional works of art he already knew. While it was a difficult material to access at the beginning, Gianakos eventually discovered Mylar’s semi-translucent polyester film, clearly marked for industrial use. As he began to examine the material aspects of Mylar more closely, it revealed an unusual cinematic glow on the surface that produced what the artist eventually described as a minor revelation.
While experimenting with the tactile sensation of the Mylar sheets, Gianakos found that the surface attained a durable translucence that would constantly shift in relation to other foreign materials affixed to it. Clearly, the layering of ink on Mylar had a different effect than painting with acrylic, while the effect of scrubbing the surface with graphite proved vastly different from both. From the perspective of the artist, what might be called the physical and optical surface of the Mylar felt like a cross-over between cinema and sculpture. Its translucence took optical hold over a unified visual space made in a single glance and removed from predetermined limits.
The “Ramp” sculptures that preceded the artist’s connection to Mylar were introduced during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In many ways they had a major effect on the artist’s renewed artistic identity, as the current direction he felt his work was leading at that time. This has been more or less delineated by other critics who have indirectly signaled connections between the sculptural ramps and various later Mylar works, resonances which are alluded to in both parts of the current exhibition at Minus Space. The exhibition shows us that the links between the ramps and the Mylars have been aligned, but without any direct visual evidence relative to a specificity of context.
And what is the context of specificity other than an idea or object that is given a name detached from symbolism—something endowed with a reality that escapes the decorum distracting our ability to focus on who, what, and where we are? The exhibition at Minus Space could be as much about sculpture as painting, largely dependent on the language associated with each medium. But here, it would appear that this language is partially hidden in favor of a generalized visuality.
As I study the works in the gallery, all taken from the “Stele” and “Mastaba” series, the forms appear ineluctably divided between painting and sculpture. And the works each belong to one another. Part of this is due to Gianakos’s insistence that his work is created holistically in relation to a site specificity. His works are not simply hung in place, based on a predictable understanding of their individual sensory effect, but are placed according to poetic transferences from the architecture both within and outside the space of each work. Accordingly, scale plays a major role, as do relationships between one work and the next, all in accordance with the whole.
Cris Gianakos is a leader consumed by his inventions as an artist. I’ve never felt removed from his graphic intensity, nor have I ever felt his systematic deployment of works on Mylar as a means of reaching some kind of closure beyond the present. What we get from his art is something rarified and uncalculated—a tranquility rarely seen in exhibitions today. I try to see Gianakos’s work from the perspective of the real: how he works on his own terms and in whatever direction he is moving. No matter his path, I am convinced Gianakos will construct feeling and memory through material.