A Major Greek Artist Gets His First US Retrospective at Wrightwood 659

Yannis Tsarouchis: Dancing in Real Life presents the often intimate, contemplative work of Yannis Tsarouchis through approximately 200 paintings and works on paper in a major loan exhibition from private collectors and institutions. It is the first retrospective of his art in the United States.  

Following his studies at the Athens School of Fine Arts, Tsarouchis (1910–89) found liberation from the strictures of regional styles during a visit to Paris in 1935. There, befriended by the likes of Matisse and Giacometti, he immersed himself in the crucible of Modernism while also drawing on traditional and classical motifs to create his own visual language.

In Paris, he was freed to explore the male figure in paintings, often featuring sailors, imbued with palpable erotic energy. His interest in the male form continued throughout his life, and his groundbreaking series of male portraits and nudes constituted a radical recoding of conventional gender roles and hierarchies represented in 1930s Modernism. His subjects often appear in allegories where the figures bear wings like angels and spirits, whether shown in meditation or being violated by the state, as in “Military Policeman Arresting the Spirit” (1965), which anticipated the 1967 Greek military coup. 

Yannis Tsarouchis, “Two Studies for the Same Subject – Three Dancers in Blue Jeans and Two Figures of Eros with Green Doors” (1978), gouache on paper, 31.5 x 46 cm

Many theatrical works, including sketches for his experimental production of The Trojan Woman, will also be on view. Later pieces, including “Copying Titian” (1971), look at Tsarouchis’s work in the context of 20th-century Western art’s antecedents and, arguably, hint at the emergence of Post-Modernism.   

The exhibition is curated by Androniki Gripari, Chair of the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation in Athens, and Adam Szymczyk, former Artistic Director of Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel (2013–2017). It is made possible by the Alphawood Foundation Chicago. 

Tickets for Yannis Tsarouchis: Dancing in Real Life are $15 and available online only at tickets.wrightwood659.org.

Admission is by advance ticket only; walk-ups are not permitted. 

Wrightwood 659 is a private, non-collecting institution that is devoted to both socially engaged art and to architecture. Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Wrightwood 659 was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, who transformed a 1920s building with his signature concrete forms and poetic treatment of natural light.

Yannis Tsarouchis, “Youth Wearing Pyjamas Posing as a Statue from Olympia” (1938–39), pigments with animal glue on canvas, 55 x 80 cm
Yannis Tsarouchis, “Set Design for Les Sylphides by Frédéric Chopin” (1948), gouache on paper, 26.8 x 36.8 cm
Yannis Tsarouchis, “Alexandras Square in Piraeus” (1962), pigments mixed with animal glue on canvas, 88.5 x 158.5 cm

Yannis Tsarouchis: Dancing in Real Life is on view at Wrightwood 659 (659 W. Wrightwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614) Fridays and Saturdays through July 31, 2021. Hours are Fridays 12–7:30pm and Saturdays 10am–5:30pm. 

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