Chryssa + Chryssa

3 April - 3 May 2014

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An exhibition of two pioneering Greek women artists working independently in different corners of the world is being presented at the Kalfayan Galleries in Athens, Chryssa (Vardea) and Chryssa Romanos. The exhibition is part of a series of annual shows featuring representative artists of the post-war period in Greece.


Chryssa (Vardea) left Greece in 1955 to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and eventually settled in New York, while Chryssa Romanos left in 1961 for Paris where she lived until 1981, traveling frequently to Berlin and other European cities. For both women the 1960s were a particularly productive and creative period.


The art historian Syrago Tsiara comments on the life and work of the two artists:


“Between 1958 and 1962, Chryssa (Vardea) began a systematic preoccupation with the world of typography and, in particular, explored the limits of the possibilities of the re-creation of a newspaper page. […] She focused primarily on the semiological function of the alphabet and writing, on the geometric space that is constructed through serial structure, repetition, the lack of continuation and the variations of visual information. Chinese calligraphy and Byzantine icons were, for Chryssa, basic sources of inspiration that nurtured her firm choices in the depiction of light and the written word. […] In the early 1960s neon appears in her sculptural work and from then on she focuses on this medium, in combination with stainless steel and plexiglass. […] Her work is a poetic essay on life in the megalopolis, the movement of modern man in the urban environment and the continuous flow of images and messages. All these provided the raw material for the creation of a personal, authentic writing code.


Commenting critically on the contradictions of reality was an important aspect of the work of Chryssa Romanos, an artist with leftist leanings and an active interest in social issues. In the 1960s she presented three significantly important series of political collages, ‘Luna Park International’, ‘Casino International’ and ‘Reportage’. It was the period of the protests against the Vietnam war and the time when Pop Art had made its appearance. Chryssa Romanos incorporated in her work the prevalent Pop Art aesthetic of the collage in order to comment on the violence and the fragmentation of experience that was directed at her as a politically and socially engaged artist. She drew material from magazine illustrations and presented a series of collages, ‘Labyrinths’ and ‘Casino Internationale’, in 1965 at the Biennale of São Paulo […] which basically juxtaposed the promises of consumerism and prosperity with the fate of defenseless social classes, wanting, possibly, to hint at the discovery of a new age group that was being exploited in the global market, that of children. […] The collages of 1965 are a sensitive and piercing analysis of the rise of consumerism, before it had achieved its final form. […] The radical nature of her work rests also on the fact that she observed very early on that visual culture depends on representation, a fact that she exploited with originality.”


Chryssa (Vardea): 1933 – 2013. Education: Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco. Selected solo shows: Betty Parsons Gallery, New York (1961); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1961); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1963); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA (1968); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1972); Galerie Denise René, Paris (1973, 1974, 1976, 1978); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1979); Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (1979, 1988, 1991); National Gallery - Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens (1992), among many others. Selected group shows: Martha Jackson Gallery, New York (1960); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1962, 1964, 1971); 7th Biennale of São Paulo (1963); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1964, 1966, 1967); Documenta IV, Kassel (1968); 36th Venice Biennale (1972); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1979); National Gallery - Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens (1980); National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2003, 2004, 2009); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004); Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki (2006); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. (2007), among others. Her work is included in many prominent museum and private collections world wide.


Chryssa Romanos: 1931 - 2006. Education: School of Fine Arts, Athens. Selected exhibitions: Zygos Gallery, Athens (1958); V International Biennale of Prints, Ljubljana (1961); Desmos Gallery, Athens (1981); Biennale São Paulo (1965, 1994); Museum of Modern Art, Lund, Sweden (1967); Venice Biennale (1976, in the framework of Progetto Arcevia); Salon de Mai, Paris (1973, 1974, 1976); National Gallery - Alexandros Soutsos Museum, Athens (1992, 1993); Istanbul Biennial (1997); National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2005). Her work is included in many prominent museum and private collections world wide.