Excerpt from Boston globe Review of the 2012 deCordova Biennial
By: Sebastian Smee
The duo Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone, who live in Boston, also go to confoundingly great lengths to make sculptures that seem initially very simple. The resulting works have tremendous, almost threatening physical presence and at the same time a hidden life that’s difficult to guess at.
Though they uncannily resemble large-scale sculptures or heavy, aging industrial objects, the works are in fact made from lightweight materials such as particle board, plastic, and fastidiously applied paint.
Antoniadis and Stone’s trompe l’oeil aesthetic is enjoying considerable currency in art today, not just because there is a nostalgic thirst for evidence of great labor and skilled craftsmanship, but because trompe l’oeil can endow mundane, obsolescent objects with secret value – the value, one might say, of labor – in this sense rescuing them from disarray and decay. Antoniadis and Stone do beguiling things with this dynamic.
Excerpt from Boston Phoenix review of 2012 deCordova Biennial
By: Greg Cook
Boston duo Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone present the ruins of crappy, strip mall America: a broken lamppost folded around a bottle, a row of institutional doors turned on its side, a broken leg from a park bench. The installation is too nice or baggy or something, sapping some of the work’s end-of-the-world jolt. But notice that the pieces are actually particleboard and plasticscast, carved, and painted to astonishingly mimic metal and concrete. And spot the penny standing on end at the bottom of a broken abstract sculpture: a tiny, melancholy, urban miracle.
In ‘Rough Shape,’ architecture in decay
At: Samson, 450 Harrison Ave. Through Jan. 28. 617-357-7177, http://www.samsonprojects.com
“Rough Shape,’’ a dour yet cheeky exhibit at Samson by the sculptor duo Antoniadis & Stone, startles right out of the box with sheer dreariness on a grand scale. On first impression, the work is all big and breaking down: toppling towers of concrete, overturned staircases, and rusted steel. The works reference institutional architecture – the kind found in places where the design is based on utility, not on aesthetics, or where the aesthetics are overtly modernist (such as the Brutalist architecture of Boston City Hall). We can extend the metaphor and read a critique of crumbling institutions of power.
“Social Climber’’ makes a giant upside-down V out of what look like two inverted concrete staircases. There will be no climbing here. At the bottom stands what appears to be a brown paper wrapper that might swaddle a wine bottle. The irony of the title is a little heavy-handed, but the handiwork is, once again, fascinating – this one is made of urethane foam.
The objects here don’t have the histories they hint at. They’re lighter and newer. They demand to be looked at as precisely crafted works of art, not relics of institutional decay. They turn out to be absorbing and funny, even as they grimly comment on what they represent.
Antoniadis and Stone
By: Greg Cook
Visiting Boston duo Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone’s show “Rough Shape” at Boston’s Samson gallery is like entering a not so distant America in ruins—and it’s one of the best exhibitions of this still new year. You first encounter “Support System” (pictured above), which seems to be three concrete pillars, pitted and pocked and stained with age. The two on the left are broken and toppled over onto the pillar on the right, neatly, miraculously nesting together. The square columns’ monumental scale is emphasized by Samson’s long, narrow gallery. You sense heavy weight leaning in a precarious balance.
Behind it is “Social Climber” (above), which appears to be two concrete stairways, gray and scuffed and repainted as if to hide graffiti, then turned upside down and leaned against each other to form an arch. Underneath stands an empty paper bag crinkled in the shape of an absent 40.
Last comes “Deadline,” which appears to be a black steel frame supported by one bent bar. The points of a rusty, broken beam on one side hold a dirty Styrofoam coffee cup. But almost nothing is what it seems. Concrete is actually craftily carved and painted wood or foam. Paper and metal are actually plastic. The trickery isn’t obvious, but it creates an undertow of suspicion and destabilization, a sense that the world is not what it appears.
Antoniadis and Stone’s art often has the surreal feeling of familiar things come at from an odd angle so that their deep strangeness becomes apparent. Sometimes, as in the duo’s current installation in the current DeCordova “Biennial,” their structures appear so crumbled, so rearranged that maybe you don’t recognize them until, like at the end of “The Planet of the Apes,” you suddenly realize that, oh my god, we’ve been in the ruins of New York all along. But here the architecture feels familiar—the crappy, generic constructions of strip malls, subways and Brutalist government buildings like the campus of UMass Boston.
It’s the ugly, shoddy but ubiquitous architecture of America, and there’s a curious melancholy, despair and of-course-ness provoked by seeing this junk in ruins. It’s like glimpsing the future and having your belief confirmed that the bankrupt direction the country has been pursing must end badly.
Boston Art Review:Antoniadis and Stone/Rough Shape
By: Nate Risteen
Antoniadis and Stone, “Rough Shape”, at Samson Projects
Antoniadis and Stone, at Samson Projects
Everything is cast, even the wood and the pen cap
As well as the styrofoam cup
Even the paper bag
And the steel
Down to the gum on the steps
Liberace’s Rolls Royce
Dave Hickey, in an essay from Air Guitar that will eventually be about Liberace’s sincerity and influence, opens with a comparison of a sunset behind the Las Vegas hills to the city’s ubiquitous neon. He makes the observation that “one either prefers the honest fakery of the neon or the fake honesty of the sunset- the undisguised artifice of culture or the cultural construction of “authenticity” -the genuine rhinestone, finally, or the imitation pearl”(Air Guitar, “A Rhinestone As Big As The Ritz”, p. 52). Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone are firmly on the side of the neon, but have also created their own vocabulary for reflecting on a world of fakery -they’ve faked the neon. And, like Dave Hickey, they see political implications in their false world that go beyond a formal exercise.
As in Liberace’s finely crafted aesthetic, these are some heartfelt, expert fakes. The inverted staircases have a striking discomfort in their presentation as cast rock, causing a moment of hesitation before going beneath them. To make an allusion to a crumbling bridge or tenement stair, a cast paper bag, molded by a bottle, sits centered beneath the span, giving both a cultural reference to downward mobility and a summary of the artists’ process -this is a cast of a mold. There are similar political/formalist combinations throughout the show, with a row of imitation steel girders that reminds us of the 9/11 wreckage, while pinching a standard-bearer of synthetic creation, the styrofoam cup. This combination of iconic waste with the symbol of a shared blow does an admirable job of creating, in the artists’ words, “a relic of empty anxiety”.
This anxiety is hammered home by frozen tipping points, with a row of imitation concrete columns that halt their fall, domino-like, just before crumbling. A joint of wood with overwrought institutional bevels sits balanced on a chewed pen cap, a possibly universal symbol for anxiety holding up an over-lacquered, over-sanded shape of conformity. This creates a direct representation of the discomfort we can feel in many corporate buildings and schools, playing on the feelings we associate with these forms. This stirring of a form’s imbued anxieties gives Rough Shape a long trajectory, moving from the formalist to the narrative the longer one spends with it.
As I’ve stated before, I believe that content is always lurking behind formalism, whether intentionally or otherwise. There are reasons for the forms that artists make, even if they’re difficult to cite. As Dave Hickey saw a subliminal push for social acceptance in Liberace’s rhinestone extravagance, Antoniadis and Stone have made a quiet protest against Brutalist and hubristic architecture, and the institutions it contains, by recreating its forms as fakes. As with Liberace, there is something we can all sense here that is not spelled out, but is contained in the associations of form. The lingering quality of this feeling makes Antoniadis and Stone’s Rough Shape a powerful reflective experience.
Excerpt from February 23, 2011 Boston Globe review of “Animal Mother” at The Sherman Gallery, BU by Cate Mcquaid.
Beauty is in the eye . . . The artistic partners Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone specialize in honoring the abandoned parts of urban environments. They’re also clever trompe l’oeil sculptors. You can see both elements in their thoughtful and surprising show at Boston University’s Sherman Gallery. The pair’s sculptures look like broken off edges of the ugliest public structures, now dilapidated.
Look at “Sob Story,’’ a more than 5-foot tall rectangular chunk that appears carved straight out of a drainage system. It’s a rectangle with two eye-like holes, each containing a length of pipe. On either side, muddy stains from the pipes pour like tears. A stick runs through one, impaling that eye. Antoniadis and Stone elegantly crafted this ugly thing out of plaster, plastic, and particleboard. Most of us would willfully ignore such a scene if we walked past it on the street. These two venerate it by making it into art that lends the ugly drainage ditch a human pathos.
The two also salvage and employ some throwaways, such as several large museum frames. They drew over the Plexiglas surface of each with lighter carbon — gorgeous, mottled brown patterns that look vaguely topographical and cast shadows on the wall behind. I thought of the buildup of cigarette smoke on paintings. Antoniadis and Stone stir tenderness for the untended.
BU Today/Arts&Entertainment January 28, 2011
Seeing Double: Poetic Sculpture with Human Narratives
Artist collaboration on view at Sherman Gallery
By Kimberly Cornuelle
Defying gravity and playing with fire, artists Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone create sculpture that makes a statement—by saying as little as possible.
“I would say our aesthetic is poetic,” says Antoniadis, a Rhode Island School of Design–trained artist who collaborates with longtime friend Stone on fine art, as well as their design business, A & S Design Studio, in Boston. “There are narratives running through our work that are very human—there are relationships between objects.”
Antoniadis and Stone use a muted palette of grays, black, and brown in creating their sculptures. In some of the pieces on display, they take lighters to man-sized pieces of glass to create pixilated abstract objects punctuated by black burn marks. In another piece, a tree limb is balanced in drainage-like holes embedded in a column of plaster. The two artists frequently play with the height and suspension of objects—including a T-shirt seemingly hovering in air, delicately linked to a two-pronged industrial sculpture, called Wet Nurse.
Their new show, Animal Mother, is an exploration of the vocabulary of three-dimensional form. The artists are known for using nontraditional materials to visually imitate real objects. The exhibition opens today, January 28, in the Sherman Gallery, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m.
The Sherman Gallery, nestled at the top of the staircase above the George Sherman Union Link, has floor-to-ceiling glass walls on two sides. The two artists removed a half wall blocking the back of the gallery to prepare for their show. That change allowed light to fall on another sculpture, a giant block that is precariously balanced on the kind of plastic rings typically found on six-packs of canned beverages.
The eight pieces in the exhibition took Antoniadis and Stone only seven weeks to produce in their shared Boston studio. They met as teenagers in Newton and Watertown, and began working together on carpentry and design projects, developing a working relationship.
“Since we’ve known each other since we were young,” Antoniadis says, “we’ve sort of created our own language in the work.”
“Everything you see is made by us,” says Stone. “As of now we’ve developed a pretty tight vision.”
Antoniadis: “Every piece is a collaboration.”
For the two artists, no detail is too small. To prepare for their current show, they rented a UHaul and moved the objects, made of wood, plaster, plastic, and paint, and sometimes dirt, into the gallery themselves.
“We tend to kill ourselves, but this is what we love,” says Stone. “Although it would be nice to have a crew to move the work.”
Link to audio interview: http://www.bu.edu/today/2011/seeing-double-poetic-sculpture-with-human-narratives/
Excerpt from Bleak houses, cute creatures by Greg Cook. Boston Phoenix, August 26, 2010.
The art duo Antoniadis and Stone first attracted local attention in 2006, when they pissed off the powers that be at UMass Boston with an exhibit that temporarily demolished part of the school’s Harbor Gallery. (The installation process, they admitted, “included some cutting up of existing walls.”) But in the group show “Salt of the Earth” at Montserrat College of Art last summer, Alexi Antoniadis of Newtonville and Nico Stone of Chelsea wowed viewers with their sculptural riffs on bleak urban architecture and trash — a bent subway pillar, a cigarette stuck into a poopy-looking ball atop a concrete-and-gravel block. These sculptures were powerfully physical objects, a bit surreal, and seemingly vandalized with graffiti and old gum, to evoke the most soul-crushing elements of our city surroundings.
If you’ve been to a Whitney Biennial lately, you know that Antoniadis and Stone’s work is better than most of that stuff. It’s time for them to put together a knockout solo show. Perhaps in the ICA lobby, with its expansive view of the Boston skyline and the museum’s parking lot.
In “Boston Related,” a 12-artist round-up of (mostly) local talent that the pair have organized at Fourth Wall Project (full disclosure: I’ll be in a group show there in October), their work continues to channel the bleakness and absurdity of the cheerless concrete, institutional tile, and trash of our urban spaces. That gives their sculptures an emotional heft, but the work also does what the best of Minimalist sculpture is supposed to do: it focuses our attention on the mass and volume of things around us.
In Untitled (blocks), a stained pink slab of stone seems to balance on end atop a ball of silver foil atop a cracked, graffiti’d block of gray concrete. Only, the ball isn’t positioned anywhere near the center, as you’d expect — it’s off to one side. You wonder why the slab doesn’t topple over. In fact, this sense of weight and potential energy is an illusion. Antoniadis and Stone constructed the parts from particleboard, paint, plaster, salt, dirt, enamel, and silicone. It’s all held up by artful stagecraft.
Untitled (sole and foil) appears to be a worn rubber sole from a sneaker propped up against a crinkled sheet of tinfoil. It’s actually made of plastic, plaster, and enamel carefully constructed to look like some funny bit of junk you might find in a vacant lot. Untitled (tile wedge) is a maybe six-foot-tall wedge covered with scuffed, scratched, cracked green tile. The whole thing balances precariously on a yellow foam ball — and now that you’re familiar with Antoniadis and Stone’s sleight of hand, you understand why the ball isn’t being crushed. Then there’s that sickly shade of green, institutional-style tile. It’s like a monument to American-strip-mall architecture. Experiencing it is an edifying sort of pain.
A nihilistic undertone hums through the entire Fourth Wall. Maybe it’s the signature style of the no-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel 2000s — a decade of terrorism and Hurricane Katrina and failed wars and the BP oil spill and economic collapse.
Excerpt from July 8, 2009 Boston Globe review of “Salt of the Earth” at Montserrat College of Art by Cate Mcquaid.
BEVERLY – You might be tempted to kick the red rubber playground ball that sits, dimpled and apparently deflating, in the middle of Antoniadis and Stone’s installation “Pass/Fail’’ in “Salt of the Earth’’ at the Montserrat College of Art Gallery. Don’t. The ball is made of cast plaster. Kick it, and you could break a toe.
There’s an endearing humility to the ball and the 10-foot-tall brick pillar that stands nearby, topped with a block of concrete. Like the ball, the pillar is flawed. Precariously, it crooks near the top. Both objects summon school days: the squeak of sneakers on the gym floor; the scuffed, utilitarian architecture; ninth grade as the ultimate arena of hope, fear, and humiliation.
“Salt of the Earth’’ is Montserrat’s biennial “New Art Collective’’ exhibition, in which the gallery asks Boston area curators to tap artists for the show. This year’s theme – the low-key directness implied by the show’s title – is too vague. The works don’t connect. Some stand out, and others don’t stand up.
Camilo Alvarez, owner of Samson Projects, chose the team of Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone. The pair grew up together, and their clever, understated work wickedly evokes the environments of their youth.
Montserrat College of Art Gallery
New Art Collective 2009
June 5th to July 24th
Berkshire Fine Arts, June 7, 2009
By Shawn Hill
Director Leonie Bradbury has staged a challenging summer show at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass,, one that complicates the usual down-time agenda of group shows with serious insight and moments of surprise. Bradbury invited a group of curators to each choose one artist whose work might fit her theme, an updated exploration of the familiar phrase “salt of the earth.” That so many personas have conspired to make a consistent, challenging show is a pleasant surprise. Especially considering that the artists didn’t make work with the theme in mind; they were chosen because some aspect of their work already seemed in synch. The end result is a challenging look into the agendas and interests of artists in our current moment, united by nothing so much as their humanity … or perhaps the word is humanism.
Some works are on paper, some are sculptures. All entail mixed media, including such esoteric materials as discs of cross-sectioned trees, recycled videotapes, embroidery thread, and wads of desiccated bread. There’s a narrative element that may be the most telling link … but the stories told are ones of vulnerability, existential angst, and disturbing moments of despair. It’s not that the show is gloomy or depressing; it’s that it feels our pain, and posits that such suffering is one of the most reliable of all universals.
Immediately imposing is the gravity-defying, off-kilter sculpture of Antoniadis and Stone (chosen by Camilo Alvarez of Samson Projects). The central feature is a sort of brick column layered with cruddy industrial paint. This unobtrusive slice of architectural mediocrity has the temerity to bend halfway up, and as our eyes continue to track we see it wields a hammer-like slab of concrete above, as if it’s ready to pound anyone who comes near. The installation takes up a corner of the gallery, and also sports a found picture of a grim former fountain or planter, now a repository of debris at the foot of a stairway. Another sculpture is a low wall covered in grubby pebbles. There’s also a skewed hint of the maligned International Style in a section of metal-framed windows that seems to be sliding into the gallery floor. This ruined façade has cracks and burn holes in the Plexiglas panes that remain intact, and openings covered by plywood.
The effect of the whole is to plunge one back into the horrors of public high school, with all this faceless and defaced architecture recalling the institutional, formulaic, creative poverty of the bureaucratic assembly-line that shuffles kids through the motions of learning.