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Vardea Chryssa

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Vardea Chryssa Biography

Chryssa's sculptures, with precision and definite form were a reaction against the prevalent Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s with its emphasis squarely upon the artist's intent. In her work, the focus is on materials and the way they are shaped for specific use by craftsmen.

Chryssa got her early education in Athens, and originally studied to be a social worker. She was then sent by the Greek Ministry of Social Welfare to the Ionian Sea island of Zante. Zante's population had suffered great loss from earthquakes. Chryssa, disillusioned that monies were being provided to restore monasteries but not to help other earthquake victims, changed her life's direction to become a painter.

Subsequently Chryssa went to Paris, France, and studied briefly at the Academie Grande Chaumiere and associated with surrealists Andre Breton, Edgard Varese, and Max Ernst. In 1954, she moved to San Francisco, California for a year of studies at the California School of Fine Arts, and there she first saw the work of Jackson Pollock, which had a liberating affect on her and inspired her to experiment with pure form.

In 1955, Chryssa moved to New York City, and became the first artist to incorporate neon light tubing and commercial signs into sculpture, She was so taken with the lights of Times Square that she unsuccessfully tried to get a job as a sign maker but was prevented by labor union rules.

Chryssa first made Pop images such as depictions of automobile tires and cigarettes. In sculptures she utilized letters of the alphabet. Ideas that predated similar images by Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Her first major work of interwoven light and letters was Times Square Sky of 1962, however she was dissatisfied because she thought the piece was too crowded. To create a sense of breathing, she inserted neon light, and for the first time, this material became an art medium.

From that time, Chryssa was prolific and created many variations based on the letters W and A. For her, a primary motivating factor was remaining cool or mentally collected amidst the onslaught of bombarding information and to process it through her creations in new ways so that nothing was repeated. She set up her own work place in a vacant building and did much of her own hard physical labor, although she did employ glass blowers and foundries. A major effort was a piece titled The Gates of Times Square. Timers were programmed to turn the lights on and off, and black glass cases gave a sense of night. Her goal was to achieve a wide range of emotions from fear to pure joy, and it is alleged that she was not always cool or joyful with others when she was at work. Her reputation has been that of a driving task master with results that have brought her much acclaim.

Select Timeline

  • 1954 - she moved to San Francisco, California for a year of study at the California School of Fine Arts
  • 1955 - Chryssa settled in New York City, and became the first artist to incorporate neon light tubing and commercial signs into sculpture
  • 1962 - Her first major work of interwoven light and letters was Times Square Sky.
  • 1972 - Chryssa was given a one-person show at the Whitney Museum

Select Exhibitions

  • 1961 - The Guggenheim Museum
  • 2000 - Fluorescence, Galerie Denise Rene - Rive Gauche, Paris
  • 2000 - Fluorescence, Galerie Denise Rene - Espace Marais, Paris
  • 2002 - Popcorn and politics -Activists of Art, Kiasma - Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
  • 2003 - Acquisitions 2001-2002 - Paintings and Installations, National Museum of Contemporary Art - EMST, Athens
  • 2005 - The years of defiance - The Art of the 70s in Greece, National Museum of Contemporary Art - 2005 - EMST, Athens, Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht
  • 2005 - ZKM | Museum fur Neue Kunst & Medienmuseum, Karlsruhe, Light Waves
  • 2005 - KALFAYAN GALLERIES - Athen, Athens
  • 2005 - The Art of Greece meets China, Platform China, Beijing

Select Artwork

  • Composition in blue & gray. Originall color serigraph - c. 1966
  • Newspaper No 6 - 1977/78 - Oil on canvas
  • Compostition For Requiem (Mozart) - 1959

Quotes

Publications

  • CHRYSSA [VARDEA MAVROMICHALI]: URBAN ICONS - NOV. 1982-JAN. 1983 - Schultz, DouglasG., Chryssa Vardea Mavromichali , Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Quick Facts

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 Vardea Chryssa   Cityscapes- Chryssa Art Book Cityscapes- Chryssa Art Book  $62.00   Buy Now  
 Vardea Chryssa   Fragments Of Neon - Vardea Chryssa Fragments Of Neon - Vardea Chryssa  $298.00   Buy Now  
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