Soteris (Sam) Roussi Entanglements

ON EXHIBIT: October 11, 2017 –November 5, 2017

ARTIST'S RECEPTION: October 15, 2017 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Audacious and uncompromising abstractions, done in acrylic and powdered pigment on canvas (tapestry-style), commingle organic forms and the codified icons widely used by hobos and migrants for survival and safe passage during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Above:
Tattered Turn Around
Soteris (Sam) Roussi [Acrylic, Powdered Pigment, on canvas]

About the Artist:

Born in 1945, Soteris (Sam) Roussi enjoyed a diverse, indulged childhood. His Greek immigrant father, a chocolatier, owned a cafe, “The Unique Chocolate Shoppe,” located just four blocks from Niagara Falls. Roussi and his family lived at the Falls until his father’s death. He was ten years old at the time. In 1967, Roussi earned a BFA in Painting from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) and in 1969 an MFA in Painting from Ohio University.

His painterly semi-abstract images conjured references to pop artists like Wayne Thiebaud. Roussi exhibited extensively throughout the East Coast, receiving numerous awards including a Fellowship for Drawing from the Massachusetts Endowment for the Arts and Humanities (1977). Shortly after, Roussi joined the Art Department at Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA). In the late 1970s, Roussi began experimenting with acrylics mixed with powdered pigment. These large canvases reflected the influence of Diebenkorn. Roussi was chosen for the prestigious invitational show at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, Seven Artists in Georgia (1979). In the 1980s, Roussi found artistic inspiration from an illustration in Webster’s Dictionary depicting hobo iconography, which inspired a series of work, “Hobo Icons.” This moved his imagery firmly into the style of abstraction that carries through to his present work. In 1984, his work was included in the exhibit, The Face of the South for Southern Artists at the Palazzo Venezia (Rome, Italy). During the 1990s, he continued to exhibit in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Houston. Now retired, Roussi focuses his energy in his studio and perennial gardens.

Artist Statement:

"My approach to painting has acquired its own presence as a vocabulary independent of explicit figurative imagery, becoming the visual expression of creative energy. I aim to construct theatrical juxtapositions of shapes, colors and marks. Rejecting, over-painting, scraping, scratching and burnishing the painted surface generates pictorial issues. Each composition emerges organically as I literally draw with paint, the initial random marks eventually forming into clusters of rendered dilemmas, entanglements. It is in the course of negotiating with the dissonance that I engage, scuffle, reconcile and proceed forward. The quasi metaphorical forms and inferred graphic references are competitors on the painting’s surface, participating in contentious debates. Create then reject. Rebuild, reject then create again. I have inexhaustible possibilities to explore and limitless configurations to encounter. In the end, and by the same token, the finished painting affords the observer an open-ended invitation, a visual legacy, with which to engage, decipher and construe according to their own perception.

On Entanglements - The original inspiration for my move to pure abstraction occurred thirty years ago when I came across an illustration in Webster’s Dictionary depicting a chart of hobo icons. This code system was widely used by hobos during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Scratched into fences or scrawled on walls, the marks informed other migrants about an area’s condition both bad and good. It was their visual language for survival. A few strokes spoke volumes. The meanings of the icons fascinated me. For example: ‘kind woman, tell pitiful story,’ ‘vicious dog here,’ ‘you can sleep in hayloft,’ and ‘jailhouse has cooties.’ Their brevity fit well with the approach I’ve used when assigning titles to my paintings: ‘Back Door Crusher,’ ‘They Never Come Alone,’ ‘Tip Toe Drop Gag’ to name a few. Like the icons, my titles have an edgy tone that mirrors the pseudo organic images that emerge and commingle in the paintings.” (Soteris Sam Roussi)

Soteris (Sam) Roussi
Above:
We All Had Lightning Rods
Soteris (Sam) Roussi
[Acrylic, Powdered Pigment, on canvas]

Soteris (Sam) Roussi
Above:
Nero Could Turn On A Dime
Soteris (Sam) Roussi
[Acrylic, Powdered Pigment, on canvas]

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