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Culture

Chryssa & New York on View at Wrightwood 659 in Chicago May 3-July 27

CHICAGO, IL – This spring, Wrightwood 659 hosts Chryssa & New York, the first museum exhibition in North America in more than four decades to focus on the Greek-born artist Chryssa (1933–2013). Co-organized by Dia Art Foundation and the Menil Collection, Houston, in collaboration with Alphawood Foundation at Wrightwood 659, Chicago, the critically acclaimed exhibition makes its final stop on its national tour at Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood Avenue in Chicago, from May 3 through July 27.

Born in Athens to the famous Mavromichalis family with roots in Mani, Chryssa— who used only her first name professionally— became a leading figure of the New York art world in the 1950s and ’60s within avant-garde circles. She developed an innovative approach to activating sculptural surfaces through subtle manipulations of light and shadow.

Path-breaking in its use of signage, text, and neon, her vastly under-recognized body of work bridges Pop, Conceptual, and Minimalist ideas of art making. Focusing on Chryssa’s output while she was based in New York from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, the exhibition includes more than 80 works, as well as archival documents and highlights the artist’s critical interest in exploring the United States following World War II. In addition to major loans from American and European museums and private collections, the presentation at Wrightwood 659 includes a new section on the artist’s relationship to Chicago, featuring works and archival materials from: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Smart Museum of Art; and DePaul Art Museum.

The exhibition is presented by Alphawood Exhibitions at Wrightwood 659.

Chryssa, The Gates to Times Square, 1964-66. Copyright: Estate of Chryssa, National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens. Image: Courtesy of Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York

Chryssa & New York presents the full breadth of the artist’s dynamic oeuvre and spans three floors at Wrightwood 659. At the centerpiece of the exhibition—installed on the first floor— is the large-scale work The Gates to Times Square (1964-66), considered Chryssa’s magnum opus. Restored for this exhibition in partnership with the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, which owns the work, this towering interplay of neon, plexiglass, and metal pays homage to the signage and dazzling lights of New York’s most famous intersection.

Other key early works include the enigmatic Cycladic Books (1954-57), a series of plaster and clay reliefs highlighting her early interest in the interplay of light and shadow, installed on the fourth floor. This series nods to both commercial culture and ancient Mediterranean art.

Additional works in plaster and metal from her Projection series also deftly capture the phenomenon of shifting natural light, solving what she considered to be one of the greatest problems with sculpture: “How to be static, yet have motion,” according to Menil Senior Curator Michelle White. Experimenting with different formal approaches, Chryssa explored typography from a variety of angles and made work using newspaper printing plates, discarded signs, and metal fragments she found in her frequent visits to Times Square. Chryssa & New York assembles major works from nearly a dozen museums within the United States which collected her work in depth throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. Her fascination with the sparkling and text-filled urban space of Times Square led to work not only addressing but also radically deploying the phenomena of this commercial environment. It therefore constitutes some of the earliest art critically incorporating these then-new material forms of communication.

More information is available online: https://wrightwood659.org/.

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