(1933 - )
Chryssa (born Chryssa Mavromichali in 1933)
comes from a famous and once-powerful family from the Deep Mani.
She herself has said, "I do not come from a rich family
[but from] a family with good education (for example, one of
my sisters studied medicine) and good exposure to the creative
arts": This sister, for instance, was a friend of Greek
poet and novelist Nikos Kazantzakis.
Chryssa began painting while she was still an adolescent, and
on the advice of a leading art critic in Greece, her family
sent her to Paris to study at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere
in 1953-54. She was barely twenty-one when she sailed to New
York. "I had an enormous curiosity about America and I
felt that it would be much easier in America to achieve a freedom
of expression rather than in European countries."
best known for her "Luminist" sculpture in brilliantly
colored neon tubing, was born in Greece and now ranks as one
of the outstanding and innovative artists in America today.
Soon after her arrival in the early 1950's, Chryssa discovered
the neo-Byzantine world of Time Square and its lights.
She also found inspiration in the newspaper for which the Square
is named. Her Early "Newspaper" paintings and
sculptures were innovative experiments using typography, newsprint
collages, metal molds, and alphabetical forms in raised relief.
The luminous mythology of Times Square, its giant glowing and
blinking signs and letters fascinated Chryssa. The impact
was overwhelming as she associated the dazzling imagery of the
Square's neon signs to the art of Byzantium. The references
she uses to indicate the breadth of her discovery are highly
significant "I saw Times Square with its light and letters,
and I realized it was as beautiful and difficult to do as Japanese
calligraphy... In Times Square the sky is like the gold of Byzantine
mosaics or icons. It comes and goes in the foreground
instead of remaining in the background." These signs
were ultimately transformed by the artist into her own mysterious
symbols and alphabetical elements expressing, as she put it,
the "Homeric wisdom" of the signs.
Chryssa's genius is expressed in a variety of mediums, ranging
from sensitive arrangements of calligraphic elements in plaster
and metal to the luminous, and equally disciplined, neon works.
Her work lifts the anthropology of our world to its greatest
has had individual and collective exhibition shows at the Museum
of Modern Art, The Guggenheim, The Whitney -New York.
Harvard University; Institute of Contemporary Art at the University
of Pennsylvania; Carnegie Institute among many others.