Costas Coulentianos

Costas Coulentianos

1918 – 1995


Costas Coulentianos was born in Athens in 1918. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts from 1936 to 1939. In 1940, he volunteered in the Greek army and fought on the Albanian front and then joined the Resistance until 1944. In 1945, he was among young intellectuals who traveled by the ship Mataroa to France after receiving a scholarship from the French Institute. The following year, he attended École des Beaux-Arts and Ossip Zadkine’s workshop the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. During this period, while working at the Lavrilier Academy, he produced a series of sculptures with plaster, clay and marble that did not follow academic standards. In 1946, he exhibited for the first time at the Salon d’Automne. In 1947, when he met sculptor Henri Laurens, he was influenced by his work and created sketches that depicted mostly female figures in various poses and roles. In 1950, he engaged in collage and textile making and, since 1952, he chose to work with heavier materials, such as steel. His choice was based on his desire to cope with his materials’ complications and to highlight their potential through interventions in their form, weight, support and texture. In the same year, he traveled to Morocco, where he married Joy Gulligan. In 1953, he participated in the Antwerp Biennale and, in 1955, in the São Paulo Biennale. He then returned to Athens, studied archaic sculpture and began working on sculpture series that has as a theme the figure of the acrobat. Later his artwork shifted from realism to total abstraction. In 1961, he moved to the village of Meillonnas, in eastern France, and produced larger sculptures while, in 1962, he held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie de France in Paris; Roger Vailland wrote the prologue of the catalog. The following year, on the occasion of his participation in the construction of the Bourg-en-Bresse swimming pool, he explored the possibilities of integrating sculpture into architecture with the help of architect Pierre Dosse. From 1964 to 1965, he began using polyester to make molds that allowed him to melt his materials on site or even to prefabricate large concrete reliefs. In 1964, he participated in the Venice Biennale. In 1965, at the behest of architect Gaston Jaubert, he created a 7-meter-high sculpture for the Salon-de-Provence Technical High School (Bouches-du-Rhône). In 1967, he resumed his work with textiles, assembled warping machines and a year later he organized a weaving workshop in Chavannes in order to produce tapestries of his own designs. In the same year, he made two large stainless steel and Cor-Tenn steel sculptures for the Carriat High School and the Lalande High School respectively. From 1969 to 1971, he created a large number of tapestries and composed his first threaded sculptures. For the following 6 years, he focused on the production of threaded sculptures, woodcarvings, concrete reliefs and on the creation of woven textiles and silkscreens. In 1977, he also produced fused monumental sculptures and collages. In 1975, he taught at the School of Decorative Arts in Paris and, in 1979, at the Marseilles School of Fine Arts, having settled in Plan d’Orgon, a village in southern France. In the early 1980s, he started working on the Nouvelle Génération, a series of flat threaded sculptures made of steel and wood, with which he represented Greece at the Venice Biennale in 1982. In 1984, the French Ministry of Culture awarded him the distinction of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters. In 1987, he suffered from a serious illness and thus worked on smaller projects but, since 1988, with the help of his friend François Wasservogel, he produced three monumental sculptures as part of the series Génération 3 in the studios of Usinor-Sacilor in Meyzieu. At the same time, he created chairs prototypes from concrete bars. In the 1990s, his sculptures were mainly made of polished squared and cylindrical stainless steel, painted iron as well as embossed multicolored wood. His last monumental sculpture was made for the Emfietzoglou Museum in Athens in 1994. He died in Arles, southern France, in 1995. Retrospective exhibitions of his have been organized at the Couvent des Cordeliers (1997) in Paris, the Musée Chintreuil (2002) in Pont-de-Vaux, the Medusa Art Gallery (2008) in Athens, the Florina Museum of Modern Art (2008), the Benaki Museum in Athens and the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (2012 – 2013) in Thessaloniki. Coulentianos managed to leave his mark as a sculptor by maintaining his personal style in combination with a level of freedom in his practice without being afraid to explore, refine volumes and alter shapes. He held many solo exhibitions in Europe, created more than 50 works for public spaces in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Chile and participated in nearly 100 group exhibitions in America, Europe, Brazil, Japan, Morocco and New Zealand.