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Michael Lekakis

Michael Lekakis

Greek / American
1907 - 1998

Biography

Michael Lekakis was born in New York in 1907. His father, having settled in New York since 1888, was a florist, and Lekakis worked in the family-owned business since he was a kid, a fact which he himself associated with his first aesthetic stimuli and the selection of wood as his basic work material. From an early age, he tried to learn drawing and sculpture on his own and, in 1930, created his first plaster sculptures, some of which he later cast in bronze, and exhibited at his first solo exhibition at the Artist's Gallery in New York in 1941. In the same year, his sister Kalliroi married Greek-born artist George Constant (Konstantopoulos), who played a key role in Lekakis's decision to focus on art. Upon the entrance of the United States in World War II, Lekakis served in an air camouflage unit and, at the end of his service, began systematically studying art by visiting museums and monuments and attending lectures. He attended the courses of painter Theodoros Hios, who married his sister Katerina Lekakis in 1947. In this new post-war period, he socialized with personalities of the American avant-garde literature such as E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound, while making long trips to Mexico, Italy, Egypt and of course Greece, in 1952. His work was influenced by his contact with ancient cultures; at the same time, he focused on the characteristic biomorphic forms of his wooden sculptures. Lekakis approached wood as a primordial and living material, respecting its nature but also in an innovative way, resulting in forms that refer to the recognizable natural universe. These forms stemmed from the very structure of each tree he chose to use. The titles of his works are always Greek words related to the form of his sculptures or reveal structure in his most abstract compositions. He exposed himself to the general public with works in this direction when, in 1963, he was one of the 15 participants in the exhibition Americans 1963 at the MoMA in New York together with Ad Reinhardt, Claes Oldenburg, Chryssa and Robert Indiana. In 1973, he exhibited solo at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1975, he began visiting Greece regularly and prepared a large donation of his works to the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum in Athens. The donated works were presented at a solo exhibition at the National Gallery in 1980 – his first exhibition in Greece. In 1987 he held a retrospective exhibition at Kouros Gallery, in New York. Michael Lekakis died the same year in New York.