Kosta Alex

Kosta Alex

Greek / American
1925 - 2005


Kostas Alexopoulos, known as Kosta Alex, was born to Greek immigrants in the Elizabeth city of New Jersey, in 1925. A few years later his family moved to New York and Kosta Alex worked from an early age as a newspaper distributor and seller. In 1935, he received artistic training from painter Augustus Peck at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Manhattan and, in 1938, he attended art classes with the support of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. At the age of 15, he created his first designs on a pocket notebook. In 1940, he exhibited for the first time at the Prescott House in New York and a year later he began creating clay sculptures and participating in group exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum and the Carnegie Institute in Washington. Between 1943 and 1944, he honorably fulfilled his military duties. Upon his return to New York, he enrolled in the National Sculpture Service and studied under the sculptor Hugo Ricardi, who encouraged him to experiment with different techniques and materials. In 1947, with funding from the support programme G.I. Bill, he began his studies in Paris where he enrolled in Académie de la Grande Chaumière and studied under Henri Martin and Léopold Kretz. During this period, he created clay busts of friends and customers in classic style. In 1951, he became friends with painter Paolo Vallorz and also associated with Tajiri, Robert Müller and Costas Valsamis. In the same year he visited Morocco, where he stayed for the following two years working as a carpenter at Nouasseur Air Base and enriching his knowledge over architecture and constructions. In 1953, he returned to Paris and, in 1954, he enrolled in École des Beaux-Arts. At the same time, he got professionally involved in carpentry and construction works. In 1958, he met Jean Planque who actively supported him by acquiring his works and who introduced him to Claude Bernard, the owner of the same-name gallery with which he would get a contract later on. Shortly thereafter, in 1960, he created painted collages in relief from corrugated cardboard paper and other everyday materials such as, for example, paper from packaging, newspapers, magazines and wallpapers, as well as sculptural compositions from pieces of wood and copper which he attached using screws, staples, ropes, strings and glue. In 1962, he married Pauline Canessa and, in 1964, his first solo exhibition was held at the Claude Bernard gallery in Paris, featuring pieces from the series Man with a Hat, which consisted of bronze female and male busts with hats. Until 1969, Alex produced a large number of variants of this specific subject; these featured references to classical sculpture, primitive and Islamic art and were characterized by the abstract rendering of facial elements and by their occasional playful and melancholic facial expression. Over time, this series of work became iconic and played an important role in the development of his career. He also participated with similar pieces in the Tokyo Biennale in 1965, where he represented France along with César Baldaccini and Miguel Ortiz Berrocal. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he focused on the creation of collage reliefs. In 1970, he exhibited at the Galerie Georges Moos – Maryam Ansari and the exhibition catalog included a text by Man Ray on Kosta Alex's works. The following year Jean-Louis Roy shot a documentary entitled Kosta Alex ou L'homme au chapeau, 1971. Since 1972, Alex split his life between Paris and Geneva and, in 1985, at the request of the Geneva authorities, he created a large mural depicting a landscape on the outer wall of a building in the Grottes district. In 2001, the Jean et Suzanne Planque Foundation exhibited his works as part of a European tour. On June 2, 2005 Kosta Alex died in Geneva. He participated in many group exhibitions in institutions and foundations such as: the Musée des Αrts décoratifs (1962) in Paris, the Salon de la Jeune sculpture (1963)(1965)(1966)(1969)(1970)(1972) in Paris, the Musée des Augustins (1966) in Toulouse, the Salon de mai (1966) in Paris, the Musée des Beaux-Arts (1967) in Grenoble, the Salon Grands et Jeunes d’aujourd’hui (1967) in Paris, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1967), the Musée de Darmstadt (1968) in Darmstadt, the New School Art Center (1969) in New York, the Musée d’art et d’industrie (1969) in Saint-Étienne, the Salon Comparaisons (1970) in Paris, the Musée des Arts décoratifs (1971) in Lausanne, the Salon de Mai (1972) in Paris. In addition, he exhibited solo on numerous occasions in art spaces in France, Italy, USA, Greece, Japan, Germany, Iran and Switzerland. His works can be found, among others, in the collections of: the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., the Storm King Art Center Sculpture Park in New York, the Jean and Suzanne Planque Collection in Lausanne, the Fond National d'Art Contemporain in Paris, the Vorres Museum in Attica, the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne. In 2011, a monograph of his work was published by Florian Rodari and Hazan publications.