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Chryssa & New York

March 2–July 22, 2023, Dia Chelsea


Co-organized by Dia Art Foundation and the Menil CollectionChryssa & New York is the first comprehensive survey of works by Greek-born artist Chryssa (1933–2013) to take place in North America since 1982. The exhibition will premiere at Dia Chelsea, New York, in March 2023 and will open at the Menil Collection, Houston, in September 2023 and at Wrightwood 659, Chicago, in May 2024. 

A leading figure of the New York art world in the 1950s and ’60s, Chryssa developed an innovative approach to activating sculptural surfaces through subtle manipulations of light and shadow. Pathbreaking in its use of signage, text, and neon, her vastly underrecognized body of work bridges Pop, Conceptual, and Minimalist ideas of art making. This exhibition focuses on works from these decades through to the early 1970s, bringing together Chryssa’s deeply formal concerns and critical interest in exploring the United States following World War II. 

Chryssa & New York presents the full breadth of the artist’s dynamic oeuvre, including early works such as the enigmatic Cycladic Books series (1954–57) as well as numerous reliefs in plaster and metal that deftly capture the phenomenon of passing natural light. The newly restored The Gates to Times Square (1964–66) is displayed alongside works detailing Chryssa’s processes in realizing that monumental sculpture, her transitional pieces combining metal and neon, as well as examples of Studies for the Gates (1966–67). 

Dia and the Menil’s exhibition is accompanied by the first major publication about Chryssa in more than thirty years. 

Chryssa & New York is co-organized by Dia Art Foundation and the Menil Collection, Houston, in collaboration with Alphawood Foundation at Wrightwood 659, Chicago. The exhibition is cocurated by Megan Holly Witko, External Curator, Dia Art Foundation, and Michelle White, Senior Curator, the Menil Collection, Houston.

Chryssa & New York is made possible by lead support from the Henry Luce Foundation.

The Dia presentation is made possible by major support from Irene Panagopoulos and Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Significant support by the Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and additional support by Kelley and Christopher Bass, James L. Cahn and Jeremiah J. Collatz and D.Daskalopoulos Collection. Special thanks to Lite Brite Neon. 

The publication is made possible by generous support from the Anthony E. Comninos Foundation, and additional support by Katherine Embiricos, Christos Papazis, and those who wish to remain anonymous. Public programs are made possible by support from Consulate General of Greece in New York.

All exhibitions at Dia are made possible by the Economou Exhibition Fund.

Exhibition Brochure

When the Greek-born artist Chryssa moved to New York City in the late 1950s, she was immediately struck by the commercial landscape of her newly adopted home. In particular, she was profoundly moved by her first encounter with Times Square. This famous illuminated intersection (and later, transient urban space) would go on to serve as a key source of inspiration for her pathbreaking embrace of industrial processes and found commercial materials, most recognizably neon. Chryssa was at the forefront of adopting new technologies and ways of thinking about the intersection of art and everyday life in the United States following World War II. Chryssa & New York presents works that exemplify the artist’s practice during her formative years in the city.

Key among an influential group of artists introducing industrial methods and electric light into the visual arts (including Stephen Antonakos, Dan Flavin, and François Morellet), Chryssa began working with neon in the early 1960s. She incorporated neon elements and repurposed urban signage into works such as Times Square Sky (1962) and Americanoom (1963), and this combination of materials would soon define her work. She often gleaned discarded letters from sign “graveyards” or worked in partnership with professional sign makers and neon fabricators to create her sculptures.

Chryssa’s interest in unconventional materials culminated in the large-scale and encompassing work The Gates to Times Square (1964–66), which measures ten feet deep, wide, and tall. Structured on the form of a bisected capital and composed of a complex set of layers, The Gates is an homage to the density and energy of Times Square. A small set of red letters from scrapped signs, sliced into fragments and enclosed in plexiglass boxes on each side of the work, serve as building blocks.

Chryssa refabricated these forms in metal and neon, repeating and stacking them throughout the structure, to create a dense array of letterforms that paradoxically do not convey meaning. Rolls of cut-out paper fragments—the same shapes used by the artist in her process—are encased in plexiglass at the apex of the sculpture. The artist further investigated these forms in a series of Studies for The Gates, which she made during and after completing the titular workIn each study, she positioned a neon sculpture in a gray-tinted plexiglass box that evokes the atmospheric effect of urban illumination after sunset. She also displayed the electrical mechanisms that power the work. The formal elements of her sculptures are paramount, and Chryssa believed they would endure beyond the limited life span of their technology. “Fortunately, there is the sun and the moon, day and night,” she said. “Without electricity my sculpture will still survive.”[1]

While the first gallery displays Chryssa’s later work in neon, the second half of the exhibition examines her early practice, beginning with the Cycladic Books, which she made in three different materials: plaster, terracotta, and marble. The reductive surfaces of these Books are activated by what the artist termed “static light,” that is, the interplay of depth and shadow caused by shifting natural light.[2] Chryssa serendipitously created the first of her Books while casting forms in an open cardboard box. The raised ridges created by the folds and creases nod to the austere forms of the pre-classical Greek figures referenced in the series’ title.

Much of Chryssa’s work with natural light was created while she was in dialogue with a loosely connected group of artists living at Coenties Slip in Lower Manhattan. Through her relationship with Agnes Martin, Chryssa was on the fringes of this contingent, who lived and worked in the neighborhood near the South Street Seaport in the late 1950s and early 1960s.[3] The cohort included Robert Indiana, Ellsworth Kelly, Lenore Tawney, and Jack Youngerman, whose varied practices, deeply influenced by nature and the artists’ proximity to the light and reflections of the East River, set the stage for new strategies of abstraction.

Chryssa’s interest in capturing light is evident in a series of relief sculptures known as the Projections, which draw on her fascination with the signs and symbols of mass communication. Depicting arrows, as used in street signage, and bold individual letters, these works feature three-dimensional protrusions—or pegs—that catch and activate changing light. The resulting shadows complicate and obscure the clarity of the otherwise recognizable forms. Chryssa’s focus on obfuscation within works that take systems of legibility and communication as their point of departure connects these early efforts to nascent Pop and Conceptual movements.

She interrogated other forms of communication in her Newspapers series. For the largest of these works on canvas, Chryssa created grids of letters by repeatedly stamping the surface with printing plates salvaged from newspapers including the New York Times, then based in Times Square. The quasi-mechanical method she used to reproduce stock indices, weather reports, advertisements, and classified ads predates the repetitive use of everyday images that would come to define Pop art. By obscuring the legibility of text and letters across media, Chryssa sought to ques- tion the limitations of language and draw attention to the poetic potential of form and light. In a lecture delivered at New York University in 1968, she stated: “I have many doubts about words that have been established and used in the vocabulary of art. I am desperate because, although they include so many possibilities of interpretation they finally establish a limited understanding.”[4]

– Megan Holly Witko


  1. Chryssa, “A Lecture by Chryssa Given on January 10, 1968, at New York University,” 
    Chryssa & New York (New York: Dia Art Foundation, 2023), p. 31.
  2. Ibid, 27.
  3. Megan Holly Witko, “Chronology,” Chryssa & New York, 165.
  4. Chryssa, “A Lecture by Chryssa,” Chryssa & New York, 27.

further reading

Andreadis, Efi, and Barbara Rose. Chryssa: Cycladic Books 1957–1962. Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation/Museum of Cycladic Art, 1997. 

Chryssa & New York. New York: Dia Art Foundation, 2023.

Hunter, Sam. Chryssa. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974.

Restany, Pierre. Chryssa. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977.

Schultz, Douglas. Chryssa: Cityscapes. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1990.

Waldman, Diane. Chryssa: Selected Works 1955–1967. New York: Pace Gallery, 1968.

Chryssa was born in Athens in 1933. She studied art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, and the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) before settling in New York in 1958. Following her first solo exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, in January 1961, Chryssa was the subject of a one-person show at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in November of that same year. Her use of neon was at the forefront of the light art movement. Chryssa’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1963); Documenta, Kassel, West Germany (1968); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1972); the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (now Buffalo AKG Art Museum), New York (1982); and Tate Modern, London (2015). She died in Athens in 2013.

1. Five Variations on the Ampersand, 1966
Neon and plexiglass, 5 units
The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of D. and J. de Menil

2. Times Square Sky, 1962
Aluminum, steel, and neon
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; gift of the T.B. Walker Foundation, 1964

3. Americanoom, 1963
Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, and neon
Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Aron B. Katz

4. First Preparatory Work for a Neon Box, 1962
Neon and plexiglass
Robert Rogal | RoGallery, New York

5. Study for the Gates #14 (Clytemnestra) from “Iphigenia in Aulis” by Euripedes, 1967
Gas-filled glass tubes (fabricated 2023), glass, plywood, metal, wire, and rheostat
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (gift of the Stratford Investment Company), 2018

6. Study for the Gates #15 (“a flock of morning birds” from “Iphigenia in Aulis” by Euripedes), 1967
Gas-filled glass tubes (fabricated 2023), glass, plywood, metal, wire, and sequencer
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972

7. The Gates of Times Square, 1965
Neon and plexiglass
Collection Irene Panagopoulos 

8. The Gates to Times Square, 1964–66
Cast aluminum, stainless steel, neon, plexiglass, and paper
Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Albert A. List, 1972

9. Study for the Gates #2, 1966
Neon, acrylic, steel, and paint on wood
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Howard and Jean Lipman

10. Automat, 1971
Neon and plaster
Abrams Family Collection

11. Cents Sign Traveling from Broadway to Africa via Guadeloupe, 1968
Neon and plexiglass
Brooklyn Museum; gift of Sidney Singer

12. Cycladic Book, 1957
National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST); donated by the artist, 2002 

32. Untitled, 1955–58
Collection Jacquelyn Schwimmer

33. Letter “T”, 1959
Cast aluminum
Buffalo AKG Art Museum, New York; gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1961

34. Arrow: Homage to Times Square, 1958
Paint on cast and sheet aluminum
The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection, Albany, New York

35-37.Cycladic Book, 1957–62/1997
D.Daskalopoulos Collection

38. Cycladic Book 5, 1955
Terracotta, plaster, and oil paint
The Menil Collection, Houston

39. Cycladic Book 2, 1955
Terracotta and plaster
The Menil Collection, Houston

40. Cycladic Book 8, 1955
The Menil Collection, Houston

41. Large Untitled Letters, n.d.
Plaster, paint, wood, and plexiglass
Collection of Adelaide de Menil

42. Small White Letters, 1960
Plaster, wood, acrylic, and glass
The Menil Collection, Houston; gift of Adelaide de Menil Carpenter

43. Untitled Silver Box, ca. 1975
Plaster, paint, wood, and glass
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; gift of Susan F. Meller

44. Bach, 1956
Plaster, wood, and glass
Greenwich Fine Arts 

45. Study on Light, 1962
Aluminum and paint
The Menil Collection, Houston

46. Cycladic Movement, n.d.
Neon, plexiglass, and wood
Collection Irene Panagopoulos

47. Projection Letter F, 1958–60
Cast aluminum
The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Joseph H. Konigsberg

48. Projection #2, 1960
Metal, paint, and wood
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest, 1981

49. Three Arrows, 1960
Cast aluminum
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 

50. N’s, 1969
Painted plaster on wood
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irvin Wallace Oestreicher

51. Plaster Letter Plaque, 1962
Plaster and plexiglass
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Irvin Wallace Oestreicher

52. Bronze Tablet: Homage to the Seagram Building, 1957
Cast bronze
Greenwich Fine Arts

53. Bronze Tablet 2, 1956
Cast bronze
Collection of Susan F. Meller

54. The Arrow, 1959
Cast bronze
Philadelphia Museum of Art; gift of Mr. and Mrs. N. Richard Miller, 1972

55. Newspaper II, 1961
Oil on canvas
Grey Art Gallery, New York University; gift of Philip Johnson

56. Classified, 1960
Neon, oil on canvas, and wood
Collection Irene Panagopoulos

57. Les Toyota sales, n.d.
Neon, oil on canvas, and wood
Collection Irene Panagopoulos

58. Car Tires, 1959–62
Oil on paper
Abrams Family Collection

59. Newspaper No. 3, 1961
Oil and graphite on canvas
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

60. Newspaper, ca. 1962
Transfer print and graphite on canvas
The Menil Collection, Houston

61. Newspaper Sculpture (One Page of Classified Ads), 1963
Cast aluminum
Collection Milly and Arne Glimcher

62. Newspaper Portfolio, 1962
Silkscreen prints on coated cotton vellum, 22 units
Collection Irene Panagopoulos

Dia Chelsea, New York
March 2–July 23, 2023

The Menil Collection, Houston
September 29, 2023–March 10, 2024

Wrightwood 659, Chicago
May 3–July 27, 2024




Chryssa was born in Athens in 1933. She died in Athens in 2013.

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Chryssa & New York

Chryssa & New York offers a timely reassessment of the Greek-born artist Chryssa and accompanies a survey exhibition co-organized by Dia Art Foundation and the Menil Collection, Houston.

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