Magazine article Artforum International

Nassos Daphnis

Magazine article Artforum International

Nassos Daphnis

Article excerpt

BUTLER INSTITUTE OF AMERICAN ART

For the past forty years Nassos Daphnis' paintings have embodied a seemingly imperturbable equilibrium. Since 1952 his canvases have been subdivided and proportioned with the snap-string precision and compass-wielding flair of a visionary master planner. He has demonstrated his unwavering faith in the power of abstraction to outweigh the minutiae of everyday life. His paintings are, as were Piet Mondrian's, the pictorial condensations of a search for harmony--for resolutions of real-world irregularities and discontinuities into disciplined configurations whose chromatic power provides their animating energy. Daphnis' dedication to the ethereal substance of abstraction emerged from landscapes done in the '30s. These were followed in the '40s by fluid fantasies of submarine plantlife, like the better-known examples from his fellow Greek-Americans, Theodoros Stamos and William Baziotes. This hydromorphic underworld of sensuous washes evaporated when, after World War II and on the G. I. Bill in Europe, he stood before the Parthenon and was struck by its stark strength and strange flatness in the glare of Aegean sunlight. Beginning with 2-52, 1952 (from then on his paintings would be titled in sequence, in the year of their making), and after subsequent residences in Florence and Paris where he became familiar with Modernist abstraction, his works have had an architectonic strength, a planar tautness and a chromatic reductiveness that are the products of a determined and continuous internal refinement. Sustained by his faith in a universal physical order he abjured, on his return to this country, gestural nuance or compositional complexity, in favor of the spiritual potential of painting.

Given the hard-edged exactness of his pristine conceptions, it is important to note at his compositions are actually inspired by a Romantic response to the optical effects of color. …

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