By Guy Kaldis
My father came to the USA from the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1917 at the age of 17 to escape a domineering mother and a family that thrust him into managing the family shipping business in the eastern Mediterranean. He hated what he described as the material or physical world and preferred to involve himself in the metaphysical aspects of life. My parents met in 1933 at the home of Stefane Bourgeois, a writer who worked under Laurie Eglinton as editor of ArtNews in Brooklyn Heights, and his wife, Marie Therese, who was a dancer and adoptive daughter of Isadora Duncan. Marie Therese was Greek and knew my father. Willem de Kooning was an early friend to both my parents. He ran the lanternslide projector when my father lectured on The Keys to Modern Art in rented lecture rooms at Carnegie Hall. In the winter of 1940 my mother and I left New York and Kaldis for her to take the job as assistant to the then Director of the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Looking back many years later it became obvious that my mother’s leaving Kaldis enabled him to concentrate on painting full time. He was a very productive figurative painter, taking Matisse subjects and putting his own stamp on them. One painting in the late fall of 1940, in a one-man show at the Artists Gallery, stood out to Dr Albert Barnes of the Barnes Foundation, who purchased it for $100, commenting in a letter that the work, A Negro Looks at Modern Art, now called Absorbing Art, was of great value in his aesthetic judgment.
In 1973 and 1975 Kaldis won two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships in Art, the second of which he described as “painting America” and the principal result of which resulted in Kaldis painting a 6 x 8-foot map of the USA entitled Etude of the USA.
Collectors of Kaldis’ work include Charlotte Feng Ford (a seen in Architectural Digest, May 1992). In 1984 the Artists’ Choice Museum mounted a retrospective of Kaldis’s work on West Broadway. Kouros Gallery included his work in a major exhibition in the fall of 1983 and managed to get a painting entitled Penteli given to the Guggenheim Museum. Sid Deutsch followed showing Kaldis’ work on 57th Street and then Lori Bookstein showed his work on East 78th Street, 57th Street, and in Chelsea. One major collector, Henry Justin, bought twenty paintings in 1999 and has included them in his Center for Figurative Painting (also on artnet.com), where a few were exhibited for three months and are now available for view by appointment. Significant works are on display in Washington DC at the Hirshhorn Museum (of the Smithsonian Institution) and in Austin TX at the Blanton Museum of Art (endowed by the author James Michener) of the University of Texas.
A collection of over twenty works by Kaldis is on exhibition throughout this month of August at Revelation Gallery (224 Waverly Place) here in the West Village. The Gallery is open from 11am to 3pm Monday through Thursday, and also hosts many evening events. You can learn more at the gallery’s website, www.stjvny.org.