Chryssa, Artist Who Saw Neon’s Potential as a Medium, Dies at 79
By MARGALIT FOX
Chryssa, a Greek-born American sculptor who in the 1960s was one of the first people to transform neon lighting from an advertising vehicle into a fine art medium, died on Dec. 23. She was 79.
Her death, which was reported in the Greek press, was not widely publicized outside the country. Perhaps fittingly for an artist whose work centered on enigma, the place of her death could not be confirmed; the Greek news media reported that she was buried in Athens.
Chryssa, who used only her first name professionally, had lived variously in New York and Athens over the years.
A builder of large-scale assemblages in a wide range of materials — bronze, aluminum, plaster, wood, canvas, paint, found objects and, in the case of neon, light itself — Chryssa, whose work prefigured Minimalism and Pop Art, was considered a significant presence on the American art scene in the ’60s and ’70s.
Exhibited widely in the United States in those years, her art is in the collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
Reviewing an exhibition of Chryssa’s neon sculptures at the Pace Gallery in Manhattan in 1968, The New York Times called one work, “Study for the Gates No. 15,” “a pure, lyrical form,” adding, “It transcends ‘neon-ness’ to become a sculpture of light devoid of pop or Broadway associations.”