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by Andy Brumer

"Horizon," glass/steel, each
module 3' diameter, 1991.

"Spirale," glass/iron, 1998.
Courtesy the Muhka
Museum, Antwerp, Belgium.

(Tobey C. Moss Gallery, West Hollywood) Costas Varotsos, a major Greek sculptor, has seen his reputation and recognition steadily grow in recent years on the international art stage. A subject of one-person exhibitions since 1978, he has, for the past four years, had his sculptures selected to appear at the Venice Biennale. For the 1999 Venice-based extravaganza, his country selected him as their sole representative, and his work fills Greece’s entire pavilion.

Varotsos works primarily in glass and steel, materials which he transforms into works of art that radiate with spiritualized music and cosmic poetry. Working both indoors and out, Varotsos’ sculptures interact with and explore the specific sites they occupy. For example, he created a supernatural lake of glass atop a mountain in Italy, as well as a horizontal ‘row’ of circular steel rings or rods within which he fit tightly stacked plates of clear glass. In the latter piece, installed on a beach in Greece, the glass rises to the center points of the concentrically positioned row of rings, creating a virtual horizon in itself as well as a visual reference point directing the viewer’s gaze over the water toward the actual horizon line of sea and sky. The glass, with its natural imperfections, sparkles as it catches the light like the blue of the Aegean sea itself, elevating the work into both a metaphor (for the symmetry and freshness of the natural world) and a lyrical celebration of the artist's materials in and of themselves.

A piece called Horizon, a row of similar, partially glass-filled steel rings, occupies one of the gallery’s walls. This time the artist sets these objects against or on opaque steel plates, which suggest a kind of rugged cloudy back-drop, or even the moody magnificence of a night sky hovering over the sea. The glass again erupts into lovely blue-green hues, and as the gallery’s lights dance off of it one feels transported into a rhythmical, mythic dimension of aquatic wonder.

The artist utilizes another gallery wall to display Drops Here, rows of 12” square metal plates that ‘catch’ molten drippings of metal as they cool into solid images. These drops seem to travel from one plate to the next, creating an Odysseus-like journey of process and product. The feeling is one of pure dynamism, as the energy, flow, and direction of the drops continue to express themselves even in their fixed shapes.

From the ceiling in a different part of the gallery Varotsos suspends irregularly shaped glass nuggets from thin wires. Similar in feeling to his multi-storied installation in the McCormick Center in Chicago, the work creates an improvisational cascading shower of glass, color and light, that, again, transforms the space it occupies into a symphonic artscape.
Varotsos works the space of a gallery as if it were a canvas, which, perhaps, explains why in an interview he described himself as “. . .a painter, not a sculptor.” Indeed, he values the illusion of three-dimensional space every bit as much as actual volume. This quality of illusionistic space finds further expression in a corner piece Varotsos creates for this exhibition. A rectangular tall column of glass plates angled inwardly snuggles into one of the gallery’s corners, creating a sense of receding space far beyond the dimensions of the piece. More so, it offers an invitation to the viewer to enter through this work into a ‘looking glass’ zone of endless imagination.