Vlassis Caniaris: 'Composition' (1974)

Institute exhibition
30th May 2012 - 2nd September 2012
Gallery 4

Vlassis Caniaris
'Composition' (1974)
Mixed media

Panos and Sandra Marinopoulos Collection, Athens
Courtesy The Breeder, Athens
Photo: Thierry Bal

Our Gallery 4 programme of exhibitions presents sculptures of historical importance that offer counterpoints to our exhibitions in Galleries 1, 2 and 3, to underline the ever-developing history and uniqueness of sculpture. The second in this new series of Henry Moore Institute exhibitions features a single work by the Greek artist Vlassis Caniaris, the sculpture 'Composition' from 1974, seen outside of Greece for the very first time.

A pair of yellow legs stands on a white stool, both feet wearing buckled grey shoes. The legs are a pair of tights that have been shaped using an armature of wire netting to stand tall, albeit rather misshapen. A white rag wraps the right thigh and red plastic carnations fill out the waist. The part-figure throws a shadow behind itself that masquerades as a traditional sculptural form - perhaps a classical Greek sculpture with its arms and head lost over time, or the fragmented body of Auguste Rodin's headless and armless 'Striding Man'. Here in the Institute's 2012-2013 exhibition programme Vlassis Caniaris' standing figure enters into a dialogue with sculptures in Galleries 1, 2 and 3 by Michael Dean and Sarah Lucas, with the latter exhibition featuring a number of sculptures where the artist uses, like Caniaris, tights.

Caniaris (1928-2011) left his native Greece in 1956 for Rome, subsequently spending time in Paris and Berlin, and returning to Athens in 1976. This was a period of economic turbulence, leading to large-scale migration of workers from the south to the north of Europe.  Using materials ready at hand Caniaris' sought to observe the surrounding world, rather than represent it, deploying the spirit of the Arte Povera artists working simultaneously in Italy. From the mid 1960s he began to create resourceful compositions from objects and materials bearing the traces of use, such as wire netting, plaster, clothes, battered toys, rags, artificial flowers, pallets, cardboard boxes, newspaper clippings and suitcases.

This display gives visitors the opportunity to view a rarely seen work by a somewhat overlooked artist. 'Composition' is on loan from the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. Caniaris' work can be found in a number of public art collections across Europe and has featured in exhibitions such as Athens Biennale (2012); Team Gallery, New York (2011); The Breeder, Athens (2009); State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece, retrospective (2000); Staatliche Kunsthaus, Berlin (1992); Venice Biennale (1964 & 1988); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1976); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1971); Documenta 6, Kassel (1977); and Biennale di Sao Paolo (1965).

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