Menelaos Katafigiotis
Bergenite Bergenite

Rutherford Greeks Art Makes Hit
Thursday, July 15, 1976

At the New York Hilton Hotel, jewel of Rockefeller Center, the paintings of a Greek resident of Rutherford have attracted wide attention.

The Painter is Menelaos Katafigiotis.

Katafigiotis graduated from the Superior School of Fine Arts, Athens, in 1954, is being displayed at the Del Valentino Gallery from July 7 to July 22.

Many have commented upon the wide-ranging spectrum of the Rutherford man's art.

In the foreword to the catalogue, Mario Albertazzi, the critic wrote:
"Katafigiotis' Art:
His sun is everywhere, not just up in the sky, because the sun embodies his memories, and memories are what Menelaos Katafigiotis' art is made of."

In New York or in Brasilia, in Paris or Venice, in Moscow or London, Katafigiotis is at home with his childhood memories of Greece. It is indeed a golden home, where the sun is blazing and burning unraveling its multicolored rays, and children see it in the grass of prairies, in the motionless water of ponds, on the flanks of horses - horses like toys, never like the Trojan horse, although in some paintings they do resemble Homer's threatening wooden horse.

Shakespeare said that men are made of the same stuff as their dreams. Menelaos Katafigiotis says that men are made of the same stuff as their memories. Both are right. Memories are also dreams, and dreams are memories.

A nostalgic, homesick artist? Maybe so, but an artist whose distinctive style turns the nostagia inot vivid poetry. A painter and a sculptor with so much to say, because his memories are the infinite source of his reveries. Each one of Katafigiotis' works is a tale, a clear and incisive story whose communicativeness is not exclusive to an elite.

We don't have to be Greek to love Menelaos Katafigiotis' art, nor to be a scholar of ancient civilizations. The appeal is in the spontaneity of his evocations, brilliant color and simplicity of line of his images.

This is an artist playing with his childhood toys. Toys are always beautiful and fascinating when the child loves them and becomes so spiritually tied to them that he makes idols of them.

"Don't ask me why," he says, if you would like an explanation of his strange suns, of the turtle with a coat having as many colored squares as the Biblical Joseph's. Don't ask why his figures look timeless, and his women are not erotic, and his people seem sexless and clothed more with folk motifs - applied with rapid palette knife strokes - than actual clothes. Humanity is timeless and sex may be just a myth.

We don't have to know Freud to understand the intimate world of this zestful artist, although his memories are dreams, symbols, allegories, premonitions, and sometimes problems. We must only have preserved at least a little of our childhood to be conquered by Katafigiotis' work.

The artist was born in central Greece, in a town called Trikala. He may have been born in China or Patagonia and still deeply enjoy his child balanced on the back of a horse; and horses roaming or standing rigid on the flat fields of Thessaly as guardians of the doors to Paradise; his solemnly dignified women; farmer warriors dying for freedom. His lonely bulls are on the edge of a remote world facing calmly another mysterious landscape.

His fishes are thrilling creatures, still dripping water from the sea. They have just been captured, but now they capture us in a mixture of fear and attraction.

His archaic figurines are actors performing on the perennial stage of life; his daisies are the stars of the mind, and there is a metaphysical blending between objects and people recurring between past and present.

Everything is alive and beautiful if it is fresh in the soul, as it is for this artist, whose first name, Menelaos, is as old as his land.