Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let There Be Light...

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good…”—Genesis 1:1-4

Neon art is a relatively new media. As a genre, the field of neon art is still emerging, with new techniques and technologies creating new opportunities each year. Neon art utilizes neon lights to create visually stimulating forms of art, often incorporating motion and interactivity.

Neon is one of the noble gases, having a number of properties in common with the other gases: argon, krypton, xenon, and radon. When a noble gas is bombarded with electrons by running an electric current through it, its atoms are dislodged from their orbit. As the atoms absorb the electrons, the resulting energy emits as light. Only neon and argon are commonly used in neon art.

The two base colors used in neon art are red and blue, neon gives off red light, while argon mixed with a bit of mercury gives off a deep blue light. However, other colors may be achieved either by baking fluorescent powder into the glass tubing or by using colored glass. In this way, a wide range of colors may be achieved for the purpose of creating neon art, including different shades of red and blue, rich greens and yellows, and pure whites. Above Photo: NAUMAN, BRUCE. My name as though it were written on the surface of the moon, 1968 Neon light, cm 28 x 635 x 5Mart, Ileana Sonnabend Collection, Rovereto.

Neon art takes two main forms. In the first, neon tubing is the exclusive media used to create the pieces. Often these pieces resemble traditional neon signs, with some subtle or clever message added for artistic expression.

Other times the work may be free-form, with no narrative structure whatsoever, expressing itself through the gentle curves and vivid colors neon lighting lends itself to. Still another style of neon art makes use of neon lighting combined with traditional media or with objects from everyday life. This style of neon art tends to deal more with political statements than other forms of neon art which focus exclusively on the shape and color of the neon, and has produced some works which were met with great critical praise.

When creating neon art, most artists bend the glass freehand, while some rely on templates commonly used in neon sign making. Glass is bent by fixing it over a high-temperature flame and rolling it back and forth while pulling it into the desired shape. Above Photo: NAUMAN, BRUCE. Raw War, 1970, neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame, 6 ½ x 17 ½ x 2 ½ in. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Leo Castelli.

In 1981, the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) in Los Angeles became the first museum in the world to specialize in works of neon art. To date, they have shown the work of more than four-hundred artists and received widespread praise. In addition to operating as a museum, MONA also offers classes in introductory neon shaping and technique, taught by museum staff and resident artists.

Neon Art Links:

1 comment:

Sarah Jane said...

I have been to that museum and loved it. Would be a great place for a social function, I think.