The darkness lurking behind vivid color

The gun with the caption 'Smile please' is indicative of the violence in Giorgos Ioannou's otherwise playful-seeming work. [City of Athens]

Back in 1973, the influential Greek writer Antonis Samarakis had proposed a different title for Giorgos (Georges) Ioannou's solo show: "Panic in the Streets and Hearts." The painter was 47 years old at the time and had just entered the most mature, creative and productive period of his career.

Samarakis' tacitly political comment was intended to point to the intensely anti-military spirit of the artist's work (Greece was still under the colonels' junta at the time) and sought to make a connection between the narrative of his canvases and the anxieties, social isolation, chaos and barbarity of the modern, mechanical world. Was such darkness, though, possible from an artist whose work was bathed in color, who loved comic books and whose vernacular was so profoundly influenced by pop art?

"Ioannou's work appears humorous on the surface but has a nightmarish quality deep...

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