Nassos Daphnis (born July 23, 1914, Krokeai, Greece – d. November 23, 2010, Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S.) was a Greek-born American abstract painter, sculptor.
Daphnis' artistic style evolved throughout his career. He began as a realist and moved on to biomorphic forms with a Surrealist influence. In a 1985 exhibition review, Grace Glueck described these works for the New York Times:
"Before developing his reductive line-color-plane approach...Daphnis was involved with biomorphic imagery. Part of his inspiration came from a botanical hobby: hybridizing tree peonies, an avocation he pursues to this day. At Kouros, a group of rarely seen canvases and watercolors from 1947-48 deals with organic, floral and undersea forms, in poetic compositions of luminous color. Despite their amorphous look, they have a well-ordered structure that doesn't seem too far removed from the artist's later concerns. In one of the strongest - called, in fact, Hybridization - plant leaves and stems, bathed in a shimmering light, are beautifully locked in a harmonious balance of shapes and hues."
Color-plane theory and hard-edge painting: 1950s-201
In the 1950s, Daphnis traveled back to Greece with the assistance of the G.I. Bill. While there he began to see the stark, clear light change his perception of the buildings and forms around him. Structures were simplified and became geometric planes of pure color. Following this trop, Daphnis developed his color-plane theory and focused on geometric abstraction with a restricted color palette of only black, white and primary colors. This became his signature style and these works are often characterized as being painted in the Hard-edge style of geometric abstraction. His style is frequently compared with Piet Mondrian but Daphnis saw Mondrian's approach as a jumping off point. Daphnis was also described as an abstract imagist, a term which arose from a 1961 exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, called American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists, in which he participated.
In the late 1980s, Daphnis' style evolved again as he began to integrate new forms of computer technology into his practice. 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.
For nearly forty years Nassos Daphnis was represented by the Leo Castelli Gallery. Castelli gave him 17 solo exhibitions and included his work in group exhibitions featuring artists such as Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, and Lee Bontecou. In his later years, Daphnis also exhibited at the Anita Shapolsky Gallery.
In August 2015, Richard Taittinger Gallery announced its exclusive representation of the Estate of Nassos Daphnis. On September 16, 2015, the gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of paintings from 1987-1992. This body of work not only reflects upon the development of early computer-based graphics in the 1980s, but also translates Daphnis' color-plane theory into radical digital landscapes. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Anthony Haden-Guest.
City Walls, Inc.
In 1969, Daphnis was commissioned by City Walls, Incorporated to do a wall painting at 26th Street and Madison Avenue in New York. In 1971, he was commissioned again to do a wall painting at West Side Highway and 47th Street in New York. From 1971 to 1980, City Walls, Inc. installed public murals in New York City. Neither of Daphnis' murals remains today.