Stephen Antonakos’s work with neon since 1960 has lent the medium new perceptual and formal meanings in hundreds of gallery and museum exhibitions first in New York and then internationally. His use of spare, complete and incomplete geometric forms has ranged from direct 3-dimensional interior installations to painted canvases, Walls, the well known back-lit Panels with painted or gold-leaf surfaces, and the Rooms and Chapels. Throughout, he has conceived work in relation to its site — its scale, proportions, and character — and to the space that it shares with the viewer. He called his art, “real things in real spaces,” intending it to be seen without reference to anything outside the immediate visual and kinetic experience. Starting in the 1970s he installed over 50 large-scale Public Works with the same concerns plus the inevitably broader engagement of space and natural light outdoors. Colored pencil drawings on paper and vellum, often in series, have been an equally rich practice since the 1950s, as have his various approaches to collage. He has also made conceptual Packages, small-edition Artist’s Books, reliefs of white wood and silver, prints, and — since 2011 — several series of framed and 3-dimensional gold leaf works. There have been over 100 one-person shows — almost all of new work — including a 50-year retrospective seen in Athens and the US in 2007-8.
Antonakos was born in the small Greek village of Agios Nikolaos and moved to New York with his family in 1930. In the late 1940s after returning from the US Army, he established his first studio in New York's garment district, and from the early 1960s he worked in studios in Soho.