Review: Looking at '60s Cyprus, learning about today
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 19, 2012 - Christodoulos Panayiotou’s “One Thousand and One Days,” it seems, comes to the Contemporary at precisely the right time. Just as we’re in the midst of the race for the Republican nomination for the next presidential election, it’s interesting to reflect on the general subjects of power and representation — how one authority figure represents the will of a constituency, for instance, or how a public face of authority is constructed and circulated.
Panayiotou’s installation concentrates on the Republic of Cyprus and its first president (Archbishop Makarios III, 1960-77), and thus seems far removed from the contemporary American situation. But take a step back, and his works become increasingly illuminating in relation to our contemporary moment.
Drawing images from Cyprus’ Press and Information Office, Panayiotou constructs a progressive portrait of Makarios’ administration, his self-conscious self-representation, and patterns of establishing his power and authority among the masses.
I, for one, have never been to Cyprus and will probably never get there; nevertheless, I felt that this glimpse into its recent history and the construction of its public identity doubled back as a reminder of the currency of these themes.
The show is concurrent with “Figure Studies: Recent Representational Works on Paper,” a smart collection of pieces and series by contemporary artists, each sporting a slightly cynical edge; my favorites are the homoerotic pastoral scenes by John Bankston.
Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.