Kostis Velonis (born 1968; lives and works in Athens, Greece).
Wood, acrylic, veneer, plywood, and paint spray
“[Kostis Velonis’s] sculptures and works on paper are an interestingly uneasy combination of two strains of recent art: the ‘Unmonumental’ school of haphazard, jerry-built, intuitively free-associative assemblage on the one hand; and a more concept-driven mode based on the research on and critique of the supposedly utopian desires embodied in modernist art and architecture on the other. The very title of his assemblage, Reconstruction of the Model of Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International as an Instrument of Research for Domesticity, 2009, speaks for itself as an expression of the ‘left-wing’ melancholy’ (to borrow Walter Benjamin’s phrase arising ways in which works founded on a revolutionary élan have devolved into objects of private contemplation—as Benjamin put it, through the ‘metamorphosis of political struggle from a compulsory decision into an object of pleasure, from a means of production into an article of consumption.’ Tatlin’s monument thus becomes the prototype for a piece of damaged and useless wooden furniture—moreover, on whose diagonal double helix has been simplified into an angled conical peak that might now seem less like a symbol for revolutionary aspiration than a dunce cap. And yet doesn’t this construction, by reducing the Promethean tower to a common domestic object, fulfill Anatoly Lunacharsky’s demand to ‘link art with life’ as Tatlin’s overweening project never did?
“Velonis manages to diagnose his melancholia without disowning it. He pulls off the trick of finding its irony—or rather, its scathing humor—and suggests, I think, that the aestheticization and domestication of critical consciousness may not entirely be the result of a complacent fatalism, as Benjamin thought it was (and as in the very circumstances of 1931 it may well have been). It may also be a way of preserving it in potentia when it can’t be put into action.”
—Barry Schwabsky, “Kostis Velonis at Alpha Delta Gallery,” Artforum, April 2009.