ALLENTOWN, PA.- Stephen Antonakos Retrospective spans the abstract formalist’s artistic career from 1954 to the present. The Allentown Art Museum is the sole exhibitor of this nationally and internationally known artist’s retrospective in the United States.
The exhibition features approximately eighty pieces, around twenty of which will be examples of his famed light works. Other pieces include collage works, paintings, drawings and chapel models.
This is an opportunity to explore the entire career of an important artist who has experimented with a range of media—collage, painting, drawing, found objects—and is world renowned for the major role he has played internationally in the evolution of light art since the 1960s. He continues to find new inspiration in neon after forty-five years, using the modern technology of neon lights to create incredibly sensual, spiritual and beautiful environments.
Born in Greece in 1926 and settling in New York City with his family only a few years later, Stephen Antonakos was first drawn to art as a young child. His early career was one of experimentation. Throughout the 1950s, he experimented with assemblage collage pieces, using castoffs such as old bed spreads, furniture parts and boxes in order to experience, as he explains it, “real things in the real world.”
Taking cues from everyday signage, he began incorporating light and electricity into his collage pieces. Antonakos matured as an artist in the 1970s, and his unique use of neon tubing and light opened the door to many commissions of public works of art around the country and the world. He experienced another transformation a decade later when he began to experiment with combining neon lights with more traditional painting techniques.
During the past fifteen years, Antonakos’ work has again shifted, so as to suggest more spiritual associations. Current works referencing traditional religious icon paintings are characterized by an ethereal glow, created with neon that now serves as back lighting to a painting or sculptural piece instead of the main focal point.
Antonakos has also designed numerous chapels. These chapels, models of which will be included in the exhibition, provide specially designed environments for his neon pieces. A simulation of one of these chapel spaces will be constructed within a gallery as a special viewing experience.
Stephen Antonakos Retrospective was organized by the Allentown Art Museum in cooperation with THE J. F. COSTOPOULOS FOUNDATION.