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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

Centaur and Lapith

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Centaur

Artist - Dimitri Hadzi
Born - 1921
Origin - America
Year Built - 1956

About the Artist:  Born of Greek heritage, Dimitri Hadzi has frequently looked to ancient Greece for thematic inspiration. His Centaur and Lapith of 1956, part of the Centaur and Lapith series, 1952-59, explores both the philosophical underpinnings of the myth and its depiction in Classical sculpture. According to the myth, the marriage of Arithoos, king of the Lapiths, and Deidameia was disrupted by the Centaurs, half-men and half-horse hybrids. The Centaurs, on a drunken rampage, carried off many of the Lapith women, including Deidameia. Arithoos and the hero Theseus pursued the Centaurs, defeating them and rescuing the princess. As a lesson on the value of reason and order over the chaotic excess of emotion, the subject appears frequently on Greek temples, particularly the metopes of the Parthenon. The vignette of the myth presented in the metope may have directly influenced Hadzi's presentation of the scene. By reducing the story to the rape of a Lapith woman by one of the centaurs, the artist stresses the violence and aggressive sexuality of the subject. Debra Bricker Balken has argued that Centaur and Lapith works stretch the boundaries of representation, "poised between flirtatious and brute statements of sexual conquest." Stylistically, the inspiration for Centaur and Lapith may be found in the simplified masses of Henry Moore and the textured surfaces of Marino Marini (1901-1980).

Hadzi's first exposure to Greek sculpture occurred at Cooper Union Art School, where he studied from 1946-50. Although his training was strongly Cubist, he was intrigued by the school's neglected plaster casts of the Panathenaic Procession from the Parthenon. His interest aroused, he began examining plaster casts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1950, Hadzi received a Fulbright Fellowship to Athens to study stone carvings. The next year he traveled through Greece, Turkey, and Egypt, exploring the ancient world, before moving to Rome where he studied casting and ceramics at Museo Artistico Industriale.

Hadzi gained increasing notoriety in the 1950s. He represented the United States in the 28th Venice Biennale in 1956 and in 1957 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Thereafter, Hadzi's work became increasingly abstract, although he continued to explore Greek themes.