Yannis Maltezos

Yannis Maltezos

1915 - 1987


Yannis Maltezos was born in Izmir in 1915. During the Asia Minor Catastrophe, he stayed with his family in Crete and, after six years, he moved to Athens. A few years later, he began his painting studies at Pericles Vyzantios’ private studio and at the Athens School of Fine Arts. His earliest artworks were landscapes and still lives with apparent influences from expressionism and fauvism. At the end of the 1930s, he began adopting abstract characteristics, which first became evident in the pieces he presented at the Panhellenic Exhibition of 1939. Later, these characteristics became an integral part of his practice.  In 1949, he became a founding member of the artists’ group Akraioi. After that, a period of experimentation and research on morphological matters followed, as well as numerous participations in group exhibitions of abstract art that established him as one of the most consistent representatives of abstraction in Greece. In the artworks of this period, Maltezos had already began developing the idea of a “painting-construction” resulting from the gestural use of high density materials and the arrangement of successive color coatings on the canvas. In 1959, he moved to Paris where he continued to create relief compositions through which various shapes and labyrinthine clusters emerged and vibrated the paintings’ surfaces; These were mainly in white and black. In the same year he participated in the São Paulo Biennial. In 1961, he became a member of the Art Group A and, in 1962, he presented his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Mouffe in Paris. In the 1970s, his paintings acquired a symbolic character stemming from the technological advances of the time as well as from space exploration. In the last phase of his career, he deviated from expressionist abstraction and gestural vocabulary in order to focus on the study of the visual function of colors, and thus on the development of intellectual geometric compositions and stylized human forms. Appropriating elements from Op art, he created smooth metal shaded surfaces on which he added rows of embossed dots in subtle gradations and colors that functioned as visual effects. He has exhibited in solo exhibitions in Greece and in France at art spaces such as at the Nees Morfes gallery (1962) in Athens, the Galerie A (1966) and the Jean Prud’Homme Béné (1972) in Paris. He has participated in the Panhellenic Exhibitions of 1939, 1952, 1957 and 1960 and in group exhibitions at art spaces and institutions, including the Stockholm Institute of Art (1958), the Kouros gallery (1958) in Athens, the French Institute of Athens (1959), the Smithsonian Institute (1961) in Washington, the Ann Ross (1962) in New York, the Oeil de Boeuf (1962, 1963) in Paris, the Griekse Kunstenaars (1964) in Antwerp, the Nees Morfes gallery (1966 – 1970), the Ward Nasse gallery (1973 – 1978) in New York and the Galerie Berthe (1981) in Paris. In 1981, the DADA gallery organized his retrospective in Athens. He died in Paris in 1987, but was buried in Athens. Posthumously, his paintings have been presented in exhibitions such as Metamorphoses of the Modern (1992) at the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum and 30 Artists from Asia Minor and Constantinople (1992) at the Municipal Gallery of Athens. His works can be found in private collections in Greece, the Netherlands, the USA, France, Egypt and Canada.