Athena Tacha

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Athena Tacha (Greek: Αθηνά Τάχα; born in Larissa,[1] Greece, 1936), is a multimedia visual artist. She is best known for her work in the fields of environmental public sculpture and conceptual art, and she also works with photography, film, and artists’ books. Tacha's work is interested in creating personal narratives, and often plays with geometry and form.

Artist Athena Tacha in front of her 36 Years of Aging, Eclipse Gallery, Arlington, VA, 2008

Early life, education, and academic career[edit]

Tacha was born in 1936 in Greece.[2] She received an M.A. in sculpture from the Athens School of Fine Arts in Greece; an M.A. in art history from Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio; and a Doctorate in aesthetics from the Sorbonne in Paris (1963). After her studies, she worked as the curator of modern art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College, organizing contemporary art exhibitions (including Art In The Mind, 1970). She has published two books and various articles on Auguste Rodin, Brâncuși, Nadelman and other 20th-century sculptors. She married art historian Richard E. Spear in 1965. From 1973 to 2000, she was a professor of sculpture at Oberlin College. Since 1998, she has been an affiliate of the University of Maryland, College Park, and lives in Washington, DC.[3][4]


One of the first artists to develop environmental site-specific sculpture in the early 1970s, Tacha has won over fifty competitions for permanent public art commissions, of which nearly forty have been executed throughout the U.S., including an entire city-block park in downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has had six one-artist shows in New York—at the Zabriskie Gallery, the Max Hutchinson Gallery, Franklin Furnace, the Foundation for Hellenic Studies, and the Kouros Gallery - and has exhibited in numerous group shows throughout the world, including the Venice Biennale. Concurrently, she produced a body of textual and photographic conceptual works, many of which were published as artist's books.[5]

Athena Tacha's artist books are conceptual and often poetic studies that were printed between 1970 and 2005.[6]An interactive online display of the artist books and other printed materials can be found at Printed Matter, Inc.The pocket books series are small folded books, similar to a zine that were often sold in a plastic sleeve. In The Way My Mind Works, Tacha writes about her schizophrenic mind, her ruminating mind, her orderly mind.[7] Others in the pocket series examine everyday life. The larger artist books focus on geometry, space, and minimalism.[8] A Dictionary of Steps displays diagrams of steps. In addition, Tacha explored self portraiture, in works like Gestures and Expressions.


Athena Tacha, Connections, 1981-92, Philadelphia, aerial view 2009 (photo by Jim Fennell)

In 1989, a retrospective of more than 100 of Tacha's sculptures, drawings and conceptual photographic pieces was held at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. It included large color photographs of her executed commissions and was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-88 (introductory essay by John and Catherine Howett). The same year, she had an exhibition of new work, over 50 sculptures and drawings, as well as two large temporary installations, at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, also accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue (with an essay by Thalia Gouma-Peterson). Her most recent museum solo show, Small Wonders: New Sculpture and Photoworks at the American University's Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC, 2006, had a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Anne Ellegood and Brenda Brown (reinstalled in New York at Kouros Gallery in 2007). Since Tacha moved to Washington, DC, she has had two solo exhibitions at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery (2004 and 2008).

A 40-year retrospective (over 100 works), "Athena Tacha: From the Public to the Private," opened at the Contemporary Art Center (State Museum of Contemporary Art) in Thessaloniki, Greece, Jan. 16 - April 11, 2010. It presents for the first time all aspects of Tacha's art—from large outdoor commissions, to "body sculptures" and photoworks, to conceptual art and films—with a bilingual catalog (164 pp., 113 color illustrations). It is scheduled travel to Larissa and Athens through 2010.

Athena Tacha, Crossing - Corsica (2007), digichrome, 30"x54", Courtesy Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington

Tacha's sculptures and photo-works are in many American museums and private collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Agnes Gund Collection.

Latest executed commissions (2001–09)[edit]

Athena Tacha, Dancing Steps amphitheater and Star Fountain (aerial view), Muhammad Ali Plaza, Louisville, KY
Athena Tacha, Star Fountain at night (7-minute RGB animation), Muhammad Ali Center Plaza, Louisville, KY (photo Richard Spear)
Athena Tacha, Light Obelisk Fountain with Light Riggings" arcade (4-minute RGB animation), Wisconsin Place, Bethesda, DC/MD (photo Richard Spear)
Athena Tacha, Friendship Plaza with Light Obelisk Fountain (aerial view), Wisconsin Place, Bethesda, DC/MD (photo Richard Spear)
Athena Tacha, WWW-Tower", day and night (animated LEDs), Wisconsin Place, Bethesda, DC/MD (photo Richard Spear)
  • A plaza pavement with a Light Obelisk Fountain in front of Bloomingdale's; an arcade ceiling, Light Riggings, with RGB animation; and a LED sculpture, WWW-Tower, 2001-09—in collaboration with Arrowstreet Inc., CRJA and Art Display Co. -- for Wisconsin Place, a 5-acre (20,000 m2) development at Friendship Heights Metro station, Bethesda, Maryland.

Books, catalogs, and articles[edit]

Books on Tacha's work:

  • Athena Tacha: Public Sculpture (1982), with introductory essays by Ellen H. Johnson and Theodore Wolff
  • Forms of Chaos: Drawings by Athena Tacha (1988)
  • Elizabeth McClelland, Cosmic Rhythms: Athena Tacha's Public Sculpture (1998),[11] in conjunction with an exhibition of the same title at the Beck Center for the Arts in Cleveland
  • Dancing in the Landscape: The Sculpture of Athena Tacha (2000), with an introduction by Harriet Senie and over 200 color reproductions.[12]

Main solo exhibition catalogs:

  • Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-88 (2009), with an introductory essay by Catherine M. Howett and John Howett, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA [13]
  • Athena Tacha: New Works, 1986-89 (1989), Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, with an introductory essay by Thalia Gouma-Peterson[14]
  • Athena Tacha: Small Wonders - New Sculptures and Photoworks (2006), with introductory essays by Anne Ellegood and Brenda Brown, American University Museum, Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC, Sept.6-Oct.29, 2006 [15]
  • Athena Tacha: From Public to Private (2010), a bilingual catalogue for a traveling 40-year retrospective, with essays by Katerina Koskina and Syrago Tsiara, CACT (State Museum of Modern Art), Thessaloniki, Greece [16]

Several of Tacha's New York exhibitions have illustrated catalogues -- Massacre Memorials (Max Hutchinson, 1984), with an essay by Lucy Lippard; Vulnerability: New Fashions (Franklin Furnace, 1994), a conceptual art piece critiquing the fashion industry; and Athena Tacha: Shields and Universes (Foundation for Hellenic Culture, 2001).

The most extensive articles on Tacha's art have appeared in Landscape Architecture (May 1978 & March 2007), Artforum (Jan. 1981), Arts Magazine (Oct. 1988), Art News (Sept. 1991) and Sculpture (June 1987, Nov. 2000 and October 2006).


  1. ^ Μιχαήλ Σταματελάτος, Φωτεινή Βάμβα-Σταματελάτου, Επίτομο Γεωγραφικό Λεξικό της Ελλάδος (Geographical Dictionary of Greece), εκδ. Ερμής, ΑΘήνα 2001
  2. ^ Eleanor C. Munro (1979). Originals: American women artists. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-671-23109-5.
  3. ^ "Hurrahs are Few for Environmental Artist: Athena Tacha Departs Oberlin for Washington With Ohio Send-Off that Fails to Equal Her Talent". Akron Beacon Journal. December 27, 1998.
  4. ^ Monsen, Lauren (17 March 2009). "Artist Athena Tacha Explores the Mysteries and Rhythms of Nature: Environmental sculpture, photographic works examine biological phenomena". U. S. State Department. Archived from the original on 2009-03-28.
  5. ^ Komini-Dialeti, D. (ed.), M. Papanicolaou, "Tacha Athena", Dictionary of Greek Artists (Λεξικο Ελληνων Καλλιτεχνων), vol. V, Athens, Greece, 2000.
  6. ^ "Athena Tacha, The Complete Bookworks 1970 to Present". Printed Matters. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  7. ^ Tacha, Athena (1972–1973). The Way My Mind Works. Oberlin, Ohio.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  8. ^ Tacha, Athena (1980). A Dictionary of Steps.
  9. ^ "Muhammad Ali Center - Star Fountain". Archived from the original on 2009-01-05.
  10. ^ 1000 x Landscape Architecture, Editions Braun, Berlin, 2008, p. 259 ISBN 978-3-938780-60-2
  11. ^ Elizabeth McClelland. Cosmic Rhythms: Athena Tacha's Public Sculpture, 1998. ISBN 1-893023-57-5.
  12. ^ Editions Ariel, Washington, DC, 2000 ISBN 0-9679143-1-0.
  13. ^ Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-1988. ISBN 0-939802-57-0.
  14. ^ Athena Tacha: New Works, 1986-89 Library of Congress#89-062722.
  15. ^ Athena Tacha: Small Wonders, 2006. OCLC 170886790.
  16. ^ Athena Tacha: From Public to Private, 2010. ISBN 978-960-89041-8-7.

External links[edit]