Kakis' Individuality and Honesty Shine

PUBLICATION: Columbus Dispatch, The (OH)


DATE: December 3, 1989


Page: 10D

The exhibition of Juris Kakis' latest paintings at the Wehrle Gallery confirms the relentless pursuit for individuality and unabashed honesty that has driven the painter these last few years.

The show may not be as dramatic this time - few artists, with the exception of a van Gogh, could sustain the draining outpouring of emotion that has characterized Kakis' work since the mid-1980s. But it is a show that deeply reflects the artistic maturing process of a man determined to look squarely at himself and to deal with his emotions the only way he knows how - by painting them. "I don't paint to please the public," he said, "but to express myself."

His new work indicates he is coming to terms with some of that pent-up anger so noticeable in his earlier paintings.

Some angry pieces are still in evidence, such as La Bayadere, begun in 1987 and only recently completed, or Les Fleurs de Mal. The latter has a personal story behind it: An uncle of the Latvian-born Kakis recently was released after 25 years of internment in Siberia with orders to settle in Estonia, where he is dying of cancer.

Art is a deeply personal medium for Kakis. It is why his annual exhibits are not easy experiences for visitors, who often are confronted with the visible results of emotional trauma.

But the angry pieces are the exceptions this year.

What is most apparent is a new subtlety in the imagery resulting from a refinement of the expressive means. Kakis remains heir to German expressionism, but, at the same time, appears to be more deliberate in his application of expressionism, channeling it into specific purposes rather than letting it spill over, unchecked, in every direction. That comes through very clearly in series of works, such as Andrea Liepa, Le Danceur I, II, III, IV, V, VI or La Chanteuse (The Singer) I, II, III. There, the evolution from simple drawing to complex study indicates the mind at work in the control of the emotion.

A new sensuality comes forth in La Chanteuse series, which was obviously inspired by Andy Warhol's pictures of Marilyn Monroe.

An ambiguous sensuality also pervades Vivre, Aimer, Mourir, the large nude dominating the show.

But it is intriguing that Kakis is slowly turning his attention from the human figure to other things. Roosters and horses made timid appearances last year.

This year, they become important factors, while flowers are losing the dominance they long held in the paintings. Even more surprising is the shy, elusive suggestion of a landscape in Crepuscule. It is the first time that Kakis indicates any interest in that direction.

Kakis' outpouring is obviously tremendous, which enables him to work relentlessly toward the refinement of his vision and in the process to mature and slowly, but inexorably, to change.

Nothing is stagnant in his art. He is an artist who repeats himself only long enough to push his images to the point where, answering different emotional needs, they lead to something new, more mature artistically and sometimes with little in common with the original inspiration.

In a way, painting is life to Kakis, with its ups and downs and its irresistible march forward.

- Jacqueline Hall