1936: Athena Tacha born in Larissa, Greece, single child of Constantine
Tachas (neurologist) and Helen Malaki. Lived there with her parents
and her adopted sister, Marianthe Karalaiou, throughout World War II
and the Greek Civil War. Showed drawing and sculpting skills from age
1954: Graduated from the Girls' Gymnasium (first in class), the
Alliance Francaise and the Larissa Conservatory of Music (diploma in
harmony). As prize-winner in French composition, made first trip abroad
(Paris) and visited museums of modern art.
1954-60: Lived in Athens, studying sculpture at the National
Academy of Fine Arts (topmost fellowship; MFA, 1959), and French literature
at the Alliance Francaise, where she also taught (1956-60). Met three
life-long friends: Maro Petychaki, her room-mate in the YWCA dorm; Irene
Panayotidou, her classmate in sculpture; and Paul Mylonas, her professor
of architectural drawing and history at the Academy of Fine Arts.
1960-61: To the U.S. with a Fulbright travel grant for graduate
studies in art history at Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH. Completed her
M.A. thesis under Professor Ellen H. Johnson, who became her mentor
and closest friend.
1961-63: To Paris with a Greek government fellowship for Ph.D.
studies in aesthetics and art history at the Sorbonne, University of
Paris (Doctorat du 3eme Cycle, 1963, thesis on "The Role of Light
in Modern Sculpture", directed by Etienne Souriau). Also Certificat
de Museologie, Ecole du Louvre.
1963: Returned to the U.S. as Assistant Curator (under Chloe
Hamilton Young) at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College,
where she worked for ten years (after 1967 as Curator of Modern Art),
organizing exhibitions and publishing books and articles on modern sculpture.
1965: Married Richard Spear, new professor of Baroque art history
at Oberlin College. Traveled throughout the American West that summer;
thereafter annual summer trips to Greece, visiting her parents and exploring
the Greek ancient sites and islands.
1966: Exhibited in her first juried group show (May Show), Cleveland
Museum of Art.
1967: Publication of her first art history book, Rodin Sculpture
at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
1968: Awarded First Sculpture Prize at the Cleveland Museum's
May Show (again in 1971 and 1989). Purchased with her husband 291 Forest
St., their Oberlin house until 1998. Began assisting Ellen Johnson with
restoration of her Frank Lloyd Wright house bought the same year.
1969: Became naturalized U.S. citizen. First solo museum show,
Akron Art Institute, Akron, OH. Solo show Forms of Matter (E.A.T. benefit),
New Gallery, Cleveland. Publication of her second book, Brancusi's Birds
(NYU Press, New York). Death of her father.
1970: Organized for the Oberlin museum Art in the Mind, one of
the three first exhibitions of conceptual art in the U.S.. Following
a month in a Mount Pelion village (Greece) that summer, started designing
step sculptures for outdoor spaces.
1970-71: Lived in Rome (one of four different years there with
her husband while he was doing research), studying the city's steps
and public spaces, making her first conceptual art, and working on films.
1971: Executed first full-scale (cement block) step-sculpture
in Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Blossom Music Center, Peninsula, OH.
Traveled with her husband to the Galapagos Islands and Peru, the first
of their numerous trips for nature and archeology throughout the world.
Inca, and later Mayan, Aztec, and other Mexico sites, made a permanent
impression on her work.
1973: Taught a course on "Form in Nature" at Oberlin
and organizing her last show of contemporary art. Abandoned career as
art historian and museum curator in favor of teaching sculpture at Oberlin
College (until 1998). Was included in exhibitions Ca. 7,500 (organized
by Lucy Lippard) and Conceptual Art, Women Inter-Art Center, New York.
1974: Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, M.I.T.,
where she made Charles River Step Sculpture, a turning point in her
aesthetic (ill. in Statement). It was exhibited at Cynthia Carlson,
Joyce Kozloff, Athena Tacha, Ann Wilson, AIR Gallery, New York.
1975: Awarded an individual artist's NEA grant, used to build
her first landscape sculpture, Streams, in Oberlin. Won her first public
art commission, Tension Arches, Cleveland. Started 8-year affiliation
with Zabriskie Gallery, New York. Installation at Site Sculpture: Hamrol,
Healy, Tacha, CUNY Graduate Center Mall, New York.
1976: Won her first national commission, Tide Park, Smithtown,
NY. Invited by Agnes Gund to Sculpture 1976 show, Greenwich, CT. Received
the Ohio Arts Council Visual Arts Award.
1977-78: Lived in Rome, designing a number of major projects,
including the drawing of Sawyer Point Park and the first model for 33
Rhythms (ill. in Statement).
1978: Won second national commission (GSA), Ripples, Norfolk,
VA. Tape Sculptures solo installation-show at Wright State University
Art Gallery, Columbus, OH.
1979: First solo show at Zabriskie Gallery, New York, including
Tape Sculpture installation. Residency at Ossabaw Island, GA.
1980: Selected by Janet Kardon for inclusion in The Pluralist
Decade, U.S. pavilion, 39th Venice Biennale.
1980-81: Sabbatical year in New York with a studio at PS1. Start
of annual vacations with husband in summer house near Athens built for
them by Paul Mylonas.
1981: Won two largest commissions: Blair Fountain, Tulsa, OK,
and Connections, a city-block park for Franklin Town's development,
Philadelphia (built in 1992). Second solo show, Fragmentation, at Zabriskie
Gallery, New York.
1983: First Trip to India (and Nepal), which left an indelible
impression on her.
1983-84: Lived with husband in Washington, DC, working on the
Massacre Memorials series.
1984: Solo show, Massacre Memorials, Max Hutchinson Gallery,
1985: Won two major public art commissions: Merging, Cleveland,
and Green Acres, Trenton, NJ. Death of her mother.
1986: Lived a semester in London where her husband was teaching.
1989: Major retrospective (over 100 works) at the High Museum
of Art, Atlanta, organized by Catherine and John Howett. Solo show,
New Works, at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art.
1990: Received Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, the College of
Wooster, Wooster, OH.
1991: Awarded Ohio Arts Council individual artist's grant.
1991-92: Executed a pair of public art commissions for the Connecticut
Department of Transportation (Transit and Wave Fall).
1992: Appointed Honorary Curator of the Frank Lloyd Wright house
and Estate Executrix upon the death from cancer of Ellen Johnson (subsequently
edits Johnson's memoirs, Fragments Recalled at 80, and a revised edition
of her Modern Art and the Object). Death of her friend Maro Petychaki,
also from cancer.
1993: Extensive travel in China.
1994: Solo show, Vulnerability: New Fashions, Franklin Furnace,
1995: Published Frank Lloyd Wright at Oberlin: The Story of the
Weltzheimer/Johnson House, Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin, 49, no.
1. Extensive travel in Japan. Started her Website: http://www.oberlin.edu/art/athena/tacha.html
1995-96: Executed two public art commissions for the University
of Minnesota, St. Paul (Eco-Rhythms in the Ecology Building and Rhythmics).
Published her CD-ROM, The Human Body: An Invisible Ecosystem.
1998: Installation-exhibition Sealed Memories, University of
Florida Art Gallery, Gainesville. Publication of book, Cosmic Rhythms:
The Public Sculpture of Athena Tacha by Elizabeth McClelland, on the
occasion of solo show at the Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland. Moved
to Washington, D.C. (to 3721 Huntington St., NW, house designed by Leopold
1999: Included in exhibition Modern Odysseys: Greek American
Artists of the 20th Century, Queens Museum of Art, New York.
2000-01: Executed Victory Plaza (pavement design and fountains),
a 40,000 sq. ft. plaza for the American Airlines Center (new sports
arena), Dallas, TX (with the collaboration of the SWA Group landscape
2000: Publication of book, Dancing in the Landscape: The Sculpture
of Athena Tacha, with over 200 color illustrations of all her outdoor
public commissions and 50 finalist's models for competitions. Trips
to Israel-Sinai and Central S. India. Included in three-artists show,
Citizens of the World (with Memory Temple installation), Eikastiko Kentro
Synchronis Technis, Larissa, Greece.
2001: Solo exhibition of new sculpture and drawings at the Foundation
for Hellenic Culture, New York. Extensive travel in Turkey.
2002: Extensive travel in Australia. Hiking in slot canyons of
2003: Residency at the Bogliasco Foundation on the Ligurian coast
2004: Travels to Ireland and Zagorochoria, Epiros. Solo show,
Shields and Universes, Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, D.C.
2005: Trips to Sri Lanka, Laos - Vietnam - Cambodia, and New
Zealand. Completes two public commissions in greater Washington, D.C.
(at Strathmore Music Center and Morgan Blvd. metro station).
2006: Trip to Mali, Senegal and Zambia. Completes 1-mile-long
granite commission for the light rail trackbed, Newark, NJ. Solo show,
Small Wonders: New Sculptures and Photoworks, Katzen Arts Center, American
University, Washington, DC.
2007: Trips to Dominica; Alsace, Kassel Dokumenta and Muenster
(for the third time); Sardinia and Corsica. Residency at Bellagio Foundation,
Lake Como (April-May), where she executes a temporary installation with
feathers. Continues work on large public commissions for the Wisconsin
Place development, Friendship Heights, MD; and for the Muhammad Ali
Plaza, Louisville, KY (in collaboration with EDAW). Creates many new
2008: Trips to Roatan and Morocco. Creates several political
PPT pieces (for DVD and the Net). Completes Water Links II for the University
of Wisconsin, Madison. Late fall, solo show At Marsha Mateyka Gallery,
Washington, DC., Rock and Water: New Photoworks. Also completes and
shows at Ellipse Arts Center, Arlington, VA, 36 Years of Aging (1972-2007),
with 216 photographs of her face and body.
2009: Travels to Meso-American Maya sites, the Galapagos and
central China. Completes the Muhammad Ali Plaza in Louisville, KY, and
the complex of Bloomingdale's plaza at Wisconsin Place, Friendship Heights,
2010: Athena Tacha: From Public to Private, a traveling 40-year
retrospective with over 100 works and a bilingual catalog, opens at
the Center of Contemporary Art (State Museum of Contemporary Art), Thessaloniki,
Greece, initiated by its director, Syrago Tsiara, and co-curated by
Katerina Koskina, Artistic Director of the Kostopoulos Foundation, Athens
(with the installation Athena's Web).
OWN WORKS BY ATHENA TACHA:
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH
M.C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH
DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA
S.P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
Munson Williams Proctor Institute, Ithaca, NY
Murray State University Art Galleries, Murray, KY
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, DC
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Power Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
University Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
University Art Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara
University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson
University of Utah Art Gallery, Salt Lake City
Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, NY
F.R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
J.V. Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
(this list does not include Private Collections or AT's commissions
of public art)
New Sculptures and Photoworks, American University, Washington, DC,
2006 (48 pp., 42 ill.)
Dancing in the Landscape: the Sculpture of Athena Tacha, Grayson Publishing
(Ariel Press), Washington, DC, 2000 (150 pp., 235 ill.)
Elizabeth McClelland, Cosmic Rhythms: Athena Tacha's Public Sculpture,
Ohio Artists Now, Cleveland, 1998 (79 pp., 50 ill.)
Catherine and John Howett, Athena Tacha: Public Works, 1970-1988, High
Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1989 (62 p., ill.)
Forms of Chaos: Drawings by Athena Tacha, 1974-86, Oberlin, OH, 1988
Athena Tacha: Public Sculpture, Oberlin, OH, 1982 (42 pp., 36 ill.)
HIGHLY SELECTED ARTICLES & GENERAL BOOKS:
Regina Flanagan, "Rhythm as Form, Rhythm as Place," Landscape
Architecture, March 2007, pp. 72-79
Brenda J. Brown, "Athena Tacha: Natures of Abstraction", Sculpture,
Oct. 2006, pp. 32-37
Heather Hammatt, "Simply Stellar," Landscape Architecture,
Nov. 2001, pp. 28-30
Glenn Harper, "Athena's Other Selves" (interview), Sculpture,
Nov. 2000, pp. 22-29
Anne Barcley Morgan, "Athena Tacha: University Gallery, University
of Florida," Sculpture, July-August 1999, pp. 65-66
Shoichiro Higuchi, Public Art: Urban Sculpture of 50 Cities in USA,
Japan, 1990, pp. 60-61 & 183
Lucy Lippard, "Athena Tacha's Public Sculpture," Arts Magazine,
Oct. 1988, pp. 68-71
Joan Marter, "Athena Tacha's Sculpture: Outdoor Sites Transformed,"
Sculpture, July 1987, pp.12-15
John Beardsley, Earthworks and Beyond, Abbeville Press, New York, 1984,
Ellen H. Johnson, American Artists on Art, 1940-80, Harper & Row,
New York, 1982, pp. 215-21
Theodore F. Wolff, "Artist Athena Tacha," Christian Science
Monitor, April 9, 1981, p. 18
Ellen H. Johnson, "Nature as Source of Athena Tacha's Art,"
Artforum, Jan. 1981, pp. 58-62
Mark Stevens et al., "Sculpture Out in the Open," Newsweek,
Aug. 18, 1980, pp. 70-71
Biographical documents for Athena Tacha can be found at the:
- Archives of American Art, Washington, DC (post 1963)
- Oberlin College Archives, Oberlin, OH (all her O.C. career and teaching
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (all her Greek corespondence
- to present; youthful diaries, etc.; student research in Greece and
France until 1963)