Constantin Karahalios

Constantin Karahalios



Constantin Karahalios was born in Tripoli, Greece in 1923. In 1947 he was admitted to the Athens School of Fine Arts, where he studied painting until 1952 under the tutelage of Umberto Argyros and Yannis Moralis. In 1957 he settled in Paris to attend courses in mural painting and engraving at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts and the École Estienne. At the same time, he attended sculpture workshops.

The relocation to Paris marks for Karahalios a shift in his interest, initially towards abstraction and then towards the creation of mixed media works from heterogeneous materials. In his first solo exhibition, held in 1960 at the Galerie du Haut Pavé, he presented the series of paintings Les Hiéroglyphes (The Hieroglyphs), which is dominated by repeated serially arranged reliefs, some of which are resembling human figures of geometric and archaic art. A year later, alongside his acquaintance with the art critic Michel Tapié, he incorporates in his paintings utilitarian objects such as lace, spoons, buttons and gold leaf, experimenting with the relief volumes formed on the painting surface. In 1964 Karahalios participated in the exhibition Métaphysique de la Matière (Metaphysics of Matter), organized by Tapié at the Galerie Stadler. He would thereafter begin to gain recognition as well as a consistent exhibition presence. At the same time, he evolved his sculptural forms, initially using plaster and marble and later wood, polyester and metal.

In 1965 he introduces movement, light and electricity in his works, influenced by kinetic and photomotive art, while he promotes the utilitarian object into a predominant medium of artistic expression. His acquaintance with the art critic Pierre Restany and his exposure to New Realism (Nouveau Réalisme) contributed decisively to this direction. A point of reference in Karachalios’ work, especially since 1966 and his solo exhibition Pinces sans rire at the Galerie David Anderson in Paris, will be the pegs. His interest is mainly focused on the relief geometric volumes formed by the accumulated pegs, which change according to the incidence of light and the position of the viewer, creating a sense of rhythm and movement on the visual surface.

In 1969 he created his first environment consisting of rhythmically repeated traffic signals, which he presented in the solo exhibition La lumière dans la ville (Light in the city) at Galerie Raymonde Cazenave. At the same gallery in 1972 he would install the Pénélope (Penelope) environment, an authentic traditional loom. In 1975 he will exhibit the installation Hommage à Walt Withman (Homage to Walt Withman) at Galerie Lara Vinci, consisting of four plough wheels placed on the soil and grass covered gallery floor. In the same gallery a year later he will present the series of works Ma collection des constructivistes (My Constructivist Collection), in which he uses the peg as a key element to create works in the style of Kazimir Malevich’s constructivism and Piet Mondrian’s neo-plasticism.

In the following years he would also create assemblage, and until his death in 2007, he would continue to explore elements such as the structure, rhythm and aesthetics of utilitarian and industrially produced objects, detached from their original environment, in order to awaken human sensitivity towards them.

Xenia Giannouli
Art Historian