PARIS.- PIASA Auction house
will present, on Thursday, April 8th, an exclusive sale of works by the Greek artist Pavlos (1930-2019).
Prefacing the Modern and Contemporary sale, this monographic auction is centered around 28 lots.
Exceptionally, the works presented all emanate directly from the artists family. Having all been shown in major exhibitions in France and abroad, these works epitomize Pavlos oeuvre from the 1960s to the 2000s, and benefit from an impeccable provenance.
Pavlos Dionyssopoulos, better known by his artists moniker Pavlos, was born in 1930 in Filatra. Aged 19, he left his native Greece for the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which became his lifelong home.
In Paris of the 1950s, dwelling of the Nouveaux Réalistes, Pavlos mingled with sculptors Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, and César, as well as famous art critic Pierre Restany whom he met at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1963. In his studio next door to Jean Dubuffet, rue Vaugirard, he progressively relinquished painting and began working with paper collages of cut strips of posters. Guided by the plastic potential of this medium, Pavlos elaborated a singular formal vocabulary. Mischievously drawing from the iconography of classical painting, the artist trimmed thin strips of multicolored papers, which he first assembled into abstract compositions. The near-organic shapes of his works capture the viewers attention and distort his relationship to a reality turned strange. In this manner, Pavlos set himself apart from the Parisian Affichistes such as Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé.
Later on, Pavlos abstract compositions gave way to works evoking objects from daily life, such as clothes and accessories. Somewhat echoing Pop Art, Pavlos work found success during his first American show in 1967, at New Yorks Fischbach Gallery. The early 1970s saw him create a series of paper installations, including a set of 26 trees (La Forêt), presented during his first individual exhibition in Hanover. Free spirited, Pavlos was instrumental in uniting art and life, the work and its audience, and enthusiastically embraced the art of the performance. One of the works presented here (Le Jeu Happening de basket) is the sole witness to such an event.
In 1967, Fischbach Gallery, in New York, organized one of Pavlos first shows in the U.S. The artist had the innovative idea to recreate a shop. Thus, when spectators entered the gallery space, they discovered simple Formica chairs on which were displayed coats of trimmed paper (Le Congrès, 1967).
The effect produced was unsettling and deceptive, as Pavlos explained: when people walked into the exhibit, they would come back out thinking they had mistakenly entered an actual shop. Some sat on the chairs, others put their coats on the back of the empty chairs. There was really no more distance between the work and the viewer. In this entirely neutral décor, where any form of pathos was removed in favor of a voluntarily empty and neutral demonstration, the spectator was caught off-guard.
Here, the missing human figure is indexically evoked by the presence, not of coats, but of the representation of coats. If Pavlos work finds its relevance in the dialogue between real and virtual, the contradiction in itself is not the artists goal.
This choice to apprehend man through his clothes rather than through his figure is, to Pavlos, a way to perceive him more acutely, as he vividly explained: Creating a tie or a pair of socks curiously draws me closer to the human being than if I attempted to represent them directly. Drawing a face is necessarily drawing someone in particular, getting distracted by its particularities. When an object reminds me of someone, I feel much closer to this person than when they are in front of me. The features distract me and keep me from going beyond. The clothes I draw are a second skin, a corporeal envelope where men leave traces and smells. This roundabout way gives me the feeling of coming closer to their essence.
Gas Station provides evidence of Pavlos technical virtuosity in giving life to mundane objects. Here, the trimmed strips of paper perfectly embrace the shapes of the two gas pumps, almost built to scale.
Pavlos choice to depict a gas station, in a voluntarily literal manner, echoes the quest to drain his oeuvre of any ideological reference. This work, created in the spirit of Pop Art despite his disavowal of the term does not offer an accurate reconstitution of the object, not even its representation. It is merely an interpretation, which Pierre Restany described as figurative in the third degree. Pavlos liberal interpretation of the initial object can be measured in his suppression of superfluous details in favor of a streamlined vision: rather than scrupulously reconstituting the small screen in which liters and prices appear, the artist created a reflection. Similarly, the Shell logo, contributing to the Pop Art aesthetic of the work, becomes dematerialized, poetic, devoid of a commercial aspect, through the use of paper arabesques. Gas Station demonstrates how Pavlos offers a conceptual transfer of objects referencing consumer society by using its scraps paper as a recycled material.
Aiming to go beyond the conventional frameworks of creation, Pavlos staged one of his first performances, Basket ball at Essens Folkwang Museum in 1973. Its goal was to engage the viewer into the creation of the work, breaking down the traditional borders separating art from life.
The performance started out with the use of a simple material, confetti, chosen by Pavlos as a symbol of festivities, but also for its etymological meaning, in Greek: war with paper. After thinking of representing the turmoil of mai 68 in France, he chose to avoid any risk of political appropriation of his work and decided to create an immense fresco of athletes in action. For the Folkwang Museum performance, Pavlos had previously drawn the athletes silhouettes on the museum walls with glue. Spectators were invited to throw confetti on the walls, letting the images appear miraculously. Pavlos reiterated the experience in Athens Iolas-Zoumbolakis gallery in 1974, and during the 1998 soccer World Cup in France. Of these ephemeral events, immortalized by photographs showing the publics enthusiasm regardless of age remain large mural compositions such as Le Jeu Happening de basket (circa 1974).