Athena Tacha (born in Larissa, Greece, 1936), is best known in the fields of environmental public sculpture and conceptual art, but has also worked extensively in photography, film and artists’ books. The best statement on her artistic philosophy, "Rhythms as Form", was first published in Landscape Architecture, May 1978, pp. 196–205.
Early life, education, and academic career
Tacha was born in 1936 in Greece. 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 Curator of Modern Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College, organized contemporary art exhibitions (including Art In The Mind, 1970), and published as A. T. Spear 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 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.
Work, exhibitions and museums
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. 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.
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.
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)
- Victory Plaza, 2000–02, a 40,000 sq ft (3,700 m2) plaza with fountains in front of the American Airlines Center (in collaboration with SWA), Dallas, Texas
- STOP & GO: to Garrett Augustus Morgan, 2001–04, a plaza for Metrorail's Morgan Blvd. Station, Washington, DC
- Hearts Beat, 2002–04, a 350-foot (110 m) long ceiling of animated LEDs for a sky bridge between Grosvenor Metro station and the Strathmore Music Center, N. Bethesda, Maryland.
- Riding with Sarah and Wayne, 2004–06, a mile-long trackbed pavement for the Light Rail, Newark, New Jersey.
- Waterlinks II, 2006–08, a 16x28 ft. granite water wall at the University of Wisconsin’s Business School, Madison, Wisconsin.
- An amphitheater and two fountains for the Muhammad Ali Center Plaza (ca. 5000 m2), 2002–09, in collaboration with EDAW, AGA and Color Kinetics, Louisville, KY.
- 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
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), 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.
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 
- Athena Tacha: New Works, 1986-89 (1989), Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, with an introductory essay by Thalia Gouma-Peterson
- 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 
- 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 
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).
- Επίτομο Γεωγραφικό Λεξικό της Ελλάδος (Geographical Dictionary of Greece), Μιχαήλ Σταματελάτος, Φωτεινή Βάμβα-Σταματελάτου, εκδ. Ερμής, ΑΘήνα 2001
- Eleanor C. Munro (1979). Originals: American women artists. p. 392. ISBN 978-0-671-23109-5.
- "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.
- Komini-Dialeti, D. (ed.), M. Papanicolaou, "Tacha Athena", Dictionary of Greek Artists (Λεξικο Ελληνων Καλλιτεχνων), vol. V, Athens, Greece, 2000.
- Muhammad Ali Center - Star Fountain
- 1000 x Landscape Architecture, Editions Braun, Berlin, 2008, p. 259 |ISBN=978-3-938780-60-2|
- Elizabeth McClelland. Cosmic Rhythms: Athena Tacha's Public Sculpture, 1998. ISBN 1-893023-57-5.
- Editions Ariel, Washington, DC, 2000 |ISBN= 0-9679143-1-0|.
- Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-1988. ISBN 0-939802-57-0.
- Athena Tacha: New Works, 1986-89 Library of Congress#89-062722.
- Athena Tacha: Small Wonders, 2006. ISBN 1879383056X.
- Athena Tacha: From Public to Private, 2010. ISBN 978-960-89041-8-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Athena Tacha.|
- Athena Tacha official Website
- State Department Website
- Outdoor sculptures in Ohio, Sculpturecenter.org
- The Athena Tacha papers, consisting mostly of early correspondence, education materials, publications, and artwork, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania