Nassos Daphnis

Nassos Daphnis



Nassos Daphnis was born in Krokees, Laconia, in 1914. From a young age, he assisted his older brother in the construction of commercial signs, that enabled him to acquire a manufacturing competence. In 1930, at the age of 16, he immigrated to the United States, following his father who was already a US citizen. He learned English at night school, worked in a flower shop and started painting without any artistic training. Through his work, he met Michael Lekakis who was also a flower dealer in Manhattan and who encouraged and supported him to engage in painting, providing him even his studio. Very soon, Daphnis held his first solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Gallery in 1938 in New York, presenting naive landscapes and still life. He spent the World War II period in Europe, specializing in camouflage and making relief maps. Upon his return to the United States, his work gradually shifted towards surrealistic biomorphism, similar to that of Theodoros Stamos and William Baziotes. His passion for gardening and his systematic involvement with the cultivation and breeding of peony trees also penetrated his work, as evidenced by his early floricultural compositions and later by his biomorphic creations that refer to the microscopic scale of plant forms. Following his visit to Greece in 1950, Daphnis gradually turned to geometric abstraction with strong references to Piet Mondrian and developed a personal color theory. His works are characterized by clear dividing lines with intense color contrasts and recognizable geometric shapes.

New York, 1982, 25th Anniversary Lunch of Castelli Gallery at The Odeon. Standing left – right: Ellsworth Kelly, Dan Flavin, Joseph Kosuth, Richard Serra, Lawerence Weiner, Nassos Daphnis, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenberg, Salvatore Scarpitta, Richard Artschwager, Mia Westerlund Roosen, Cletus Johnson, Keith Sonnier Seated left – right: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Leo Castelli, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, Robert Barry. Photo: Hans Namuth

In 1958, he met the important art dealer Leo Castelli, and exhibited for the first time in his gallery in 1959. In the 1960s, Daphnis experimented with new materials such as colored plexiglass and created three-dimensional sculptures through the composition of flat geometric constructions, while still continuing painting. In the early 1970s, Daphnis performed large-scale monumental works on the facades of buildings. In 1975, he presented The Continuous Painting, a 26-meter-long painting at the Leo Castelli gallery. In the late 1980s, he designed projects with an Atari-ST home computer and implemented them with oil or acrylic paint on canvas. With the purity of a minimalist and the impetuous expressiveness of an abstract expressionist, Nassos Daphnis is today considered to be one of the pioneers of hard-edge painting. His works can be found, in the collections of the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York among others. He died in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 2010.