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Richard Taittinger Gallery
25-60, 1960
Magna on canvas
Signed and dated on the back on the canvas "#25-60 Nassos Daphnis"
33 x 59 in.


Estate of Nassos Daphnis

Nassos Daphnis (b. July 23, 1914, Krokeai, Greece – d. November 23, 2010, Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S.A.) was a Greek-born American painter and sculptor recognized for his mastery of geometric abstraction and his evolution into what became known as hard-edge painting.

In the late 1950s, Daphnis developed his Color-Plane Theory (see Appendix) to liberate color from the restriction of form with a restricted color palette of only black, white and primary colors. In doing so, he used multiple planes of solid color to create the illusion of depth, space, and movement amid smooth, uninterrupted surface textures. The in- terplay of Daphnis’ carefully chosen palette and dynamic shapes results in a vibrating, tension-ridden energy that allows color to be the primary element of the work, uncon- strained by line or form. Critical reception of his exhibitions, including a breakthrough solo show with Leo Castelli in 1959, praised Daphnis as being both of the moment and ahead of the next. Well-known New York art critic April Kingsley wrote on these works, “Some of Daphnis’ paintings from the later 50’s are so radical you’d assume they’d been painted at least 10 to 15 years later. His devotion to purity predicts 60’s minimalism; his systemic approach predates systemic painting.”2

Leo Castelli, describing the work of Nassos Daphnis said, “His paintings were more rig- orous than the other geometric painters. From the day I saw his first slides I recognized this, and that he differed also because there was no hint of anything that should suggest sentiment. Sentimentality of any type was ruled out.”3

Daphnis remained outside recognized schools and moved fluidly among emerging styles. Daphnis’ exploration and utilization of Magna painting in 1958 enabled the artist to advance certain technical components of the art. “One of the first artists to employ this newly developed acrylic based medium, Daphnis’ breakthrough investigations ulti- mately led to a paint surface which did more than simply reflect surface light. The new paint permitted light to penetrate it creating luminosity within the shapes not possible with traditional old applications.”4

In 1962, Daphnis went into sculpture, becoming a precursor of plexiglas sculptures. Color plexiglas was never used before Daphnis did it, and when he started using it, no technical manuals existed at the time; he had to experiment with how to polish it, cut it, and glue it on his own.

Daphnis was interested in plexiglas because of the luminosity of the color; the way the color and light worked together, and how light reactivated and released the color.

He then needed to find something equal and vibrant enough to paint, and eventually found Epoxy paint. At the time (1963-1965), Daphnis was the only one who used it. Ep- oxy is a type of paint that has two components: paint and hardener.

“You have to use it in proportion in order to activate the dryness, if you don’t use it in 12 hours, it solidifies, becoming like tile”. Eventually Daphnis had to stop using Epoxy because it made him sick, despite the fact that he used protective masks.

In 1971, Daphnis was part of the legendary exhibition White on White at MCA Chicago, with his masterpiece White on White 20-59 featured next to Kazimir Malevich, Sol LeWitt and Frank Stella.

Following the challenge of City Walls, in March of 1975 Nassos Daphnis once again attempted to defy the limitations of interior space with the creation of the Continuous Painting which measured 86 feet / 26.20m long and 10 feet / 3m high.

Exhibited at Castelli Gallery, the work painted on a single canvas in modular like fash- ion consisted of a star shaped composition composed of primary colors plus black and white. Grace Glueck, writing in the New York Times called the work a “chromatic extravaganza” in which deceptively simple panels produce dynamic complexes of figure-ground ambiguities that pulse along the wall in rhythmic sequence, their effect dazzlingly amplified by scale.”

Perhaps no artist has been more identified with applications of Gestält theory than Nassos Daphnis. Gestält, German for “form” came to refer to the perception of a whole even before an awareness exists of the component parts or details which make up that whole. The triptych 1A-78, 1B-78, 1C-78 1978 is a great example of “what the eyes begin, the mind essentially finishes.” In this dramatic triptych, two enormous white circular forms are implied through a closure existing between the units. While each individual canvas is powered by the allusion of significant shape existence beyond its physical boundary- what the trio project in unison defies the limitations of the room itself. Critic Hilton Kram- er concluded that the 1978 triptych expressed the “momentum of Daphnis’ expanding vision” which has been sustained through an ongoing search for new conbinations.5

Between 1980-1984 Nassos Daphnis developed the series Transmitting Waves, in order to explore the “unseen forces that bombard the physical universe.” In his works 4-81, 3-82, 4-82, 6-82 Daphnis explores such mysterious entities as radio waves and magne- tism.

The work of this period is certainly an extension of Daphnis’ interest in shape projection and other long studied formal concerns, but the appeal of this particular series seems based upon the hypnotic resonance of uniform repetitive elements, simply stated, their visual complexity.

In the late 1980s, Daphnis’ style evolved again as he began to integrate new forms of computer technology into his practice with the Pixel Fields series. Expanding on his color palette, he also incorporated a few additional colors. Daphnis’ employment of computer-generated graphics and use of the Atari ST to develop his radical digital landscapes can best be understood as a proto New Media attitude.

In 1993, Nassos Daphnis had his most comprehensive retrospective “Nassos Daphnis, Color and Form: A Retrospective” at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, March 5-April 18, 1993 and at the Butler Institute of American Art, September 5 – November 21, 1993.

Daphnis’ work was represented by the iconic dealer Leo Castelli for forty years, who placed his work in most of the best museums around the US. (Guggenheim, Whitney, MoMA, etc..). He also gave him 17 solo shows, making him one of the most exhibited artists of the Castelli Gallery, along with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. (see Appendix).

Nassos Daphnis is in the collections of many significant public art institutions. These include:
• Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY • Baltimore Museum, Baltimore, MD • Boca Raton Museum of Art • Brooklyn Museum, New York • Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH • Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA • Empire State Plaza Art Collection • Guggenheim Museum, New York • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. • Jewish Museum of Florida • Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL • Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, Greece • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York • Museum of Modern Art, New York • Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA • Reading Public Museum, Reading, PA • RISD Museum of Art, Providence, RI • Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA • University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI • Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Honors and awards
• Arts Achievement Award, Queens Museum Art, New York (1999) • Richard A. Florsheim Art Fund Award, U.S.A. (1992) • The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award, U.S.A. (1986) • The Francis J. Greenburger Foundation Award, U.S.A. (1986)

• Guggenheim Fellowship, New York (1977) • New England 350th Celebration Exhibition, U.S.A. (1972) • National Endowment of the Arts Grant Award, U.S.A. (1971) • Boca Raton Museum Award, Boca Raton, FL (1971) • National Foundation of the Arts and Humanities Award, U.S.A. (1966) • Pittsburgh Award (1966) • Ford Foundation Award, U.S.A. (1962) • Purchase Award: Painting donated to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1962)

1 Oral history interview with Nassos Daphnis, 1964, Sept. 6, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
2 Rousseau. Irene, “Nassos Daphnis: An Artist in the Art World,” Arts Magazine, May 1983.
3 Zona, Louis, interview with Leo Castelli, audio tape, October 1992. 4 Butler Retrospective exhibition catalogue, p. 47.
5 Kramer, HIlton, Nassos Daphnis Castelli 420 West Broadway, New York Times, March 14, 1980.