(b. 1933)

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(1933– ).

Sculptor, painter, and printmaker. Among the first sculptors to work with neon tubing, she also numbered among the earliest artists to exploit commonplace, commercial signage for its formal potential. In paintings and prints, as well as sculptures, she has often employed single letters of the alphabet, Chinese ideographs, or commonly understood symbols, such as arrows, for purely visual effects. Especially in her grid-based paintings, these appear within elegantly austere contexts. Born in Athens, Chryssa Vardea Mavromichaeli began her art training there before leaving for Paris in 1953 to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and absorb the postwar art milieu. In 1954 she enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) but stayed only a year. Subsequently, in New York, at least partially in reaction to the prevailing enthusiasm for abstract expressionism, she made undemonstrative paintings and metal reliefs based on simple motifs. Related to the early work of Jasper Johns in their pop art acceptance of the commonplace, they also suggest a minimalist sensibility in their stripped-down clarity. Stimulated by New York's vibrant streetscapes, in 1962 she first put brightly colored neon to use in sculptural constructions, anticipating interest in colored artificial light among other artists, including widely acknowledged master Dan Flavin. The light sculptures culminated in the mid-1960s in such works as The Gates to Times Square (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 1964–66), a ten-foot cubic volume dominated by an A-shaped Plexiglas structure enclosing neon tubing. While working also in two dimensions, since then she has continued to make sculptures with neon as well as other materials, particularly polished aluminum, in variations and extensions of her early accomplishments.

Subjects: Art.

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