Kakis Work Another Milestone

By: Jacquelin Hall - Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)


DATE: November 24, 1985


Page: 11F

Few artists in this area have shown as much growth and evolution in their painting over the last five years as Juris Kakis. The annual exhibition of his work in the Wehrle Gallery at Ohio Dominican College has become an event of pleasurable anticipation of interesting developments in his technique and approach. And this year's show is no disappointment.

Thirty-nine paintings, almost all of them new, confirm Kakis' progress, already dominant last year, into a form of German expressionism. The difference, though, is that in his new works he reveals a freedom of expression and a self-confidence heretofore absent.

His palette is stronger but more somber than ever, his brushwork assertive as never before, and his imagery amazingly complex in its spontaneity. There is a resonance to his new work, which fills the gallery like the echoes of a Wagnerian opera. There is something very romantic in the emotional figuration of Kakis' paintings.

Faces and torsos materialize on the painted surfaces as if driven out of the thickness of the pigments by the pressure of brushtrokes. And most of them manage to dominate the frenzied world from which they are born. It is especially true of the weird Hexe With Red Hair and Salieri Waiting. In those works, in particular, Kakis has moved far beyond the influences of Ensor and Rouault noticeable in last year's exhibit.

ONE OF the fascinations about Kakis is the influence his latest travel or his study of a painter about whom he knew little has on his work. This year it springs from a visit to the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in southern France and the study of Jean Dubuffet's work.

The Dubuffet influence may be detected in Torso Unmasked in the use of black and white, strong outlines and busy details within the confines of the latter. The neo-classical period of Picasso and the simplicity of Matisse's later work may come to mind while looking at Solveiga, Ma Soeur, Mon Amour or Festi Tudrok (Estonian Girl). But what dominates the imagery is what Kakis' own temperament and talent have done with those influences.

His Latvian origin holds sway far more noticeably over his work. It is in his recurring use of flowers and floral arrangements, derived from the embroidery on the women's national costumes. It is in his use of figures dressed in those costumes. Especially interesting in that vein are Pink Costumed Figure and White Costumed Figure. Both have the fresh simple spontaneity, reminiscent of costumes sketches made for the theater.

BUT THAT look of spontaneity that characterizes most of Kakis' work is deceptive. His paintings are the results of layers of pigments painstakingly applied to form a background, and the addition of many more to pull the image out of that ground.

He works and reworks his surfaces until "they feel right." It is a slow process and only his remarkable sense as colorist can bring together in a successful composition the off-beat hues he favors for the moment.

His floral pieces are far less dramatic, and still show the Kakis of the past, with what he calls his "French palette" -- no black. In a few works executed in Florida last summer, he has incorporated a woman's head among the colorful buds and a vague ocean in the background. Light blue and peach-pink dominate the busy surfaces. In them are a tenuous connection with the Matisse paintings of the 1920s and early '30s.

Visitors may find themselves more at ease with Kakis' floral works. They are light, fresh and delicately spontaneous.

Most of these require breathing space, and they are not facile on the eye. But they have a richness and depth that bring them far beyond the realm of decoration into that of serious art. They seem to have sprung from the innermost recesses of the artist's soul.

It is an excellent show that will run through Dec. 10.

The Wehrle Gallery, 1216 Sunbury Rd., is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day.