Chinese artist Lu Xinjian has been inspired by maps and cities for years, often collected in his increasingly large-scale acrylic on canvas series City DNA. But his newest work City Light expands on these inspirations, taking the flat abstractions and mounting them onto the wall with neon.
Using Google Earth images of the artist’s current home, the sprawling metropolis of Shanghai, Xinjian renders the map loosely in his abstract style. The resulting plans are rendered in neon on a solid black background, and run on a flash program which controls the timing of each area’s lines being illuminated. Starting with a small, centrally-located blue square, the rest of the surrounding area follows, until the entire piece is lit. Representing the rapid growth of the modern metropolis, the network of neon light tubes takes the language of city communication and visually abstracts the idea of rapid expansion. (via alwaysinstudio and designboom)
“Godfather of Neon” Chris Bracey is the artist and collector behind London’s God’s Own Junkyard, the world’s largest collection of neon signs, art work, light sculptures, and other reworked, salvaged props. Bracey’s signs and props have appeared in many Hollywood films such as “Blade Runner,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Mona Lisa,” and “Eyes Wide Shut,” to name a very few. After filming’s done on a movie, the signs and props get tossed out, but 25 years ago, Bracey decided to start collecting and storing many of his more iconic creations. In this short film, Bracey explains that his experience of neon is like visual cocaine, an experience of visual addiction. He also claims that he was the first person to create the iconic and oft-used “Girls Girls Girls” sign seen at adult establishments, both in real life and in films.
After he began collecting his discarded film commissions, Bracey says he decided that he should name the collection. “I had this yard with all the stuff in it, and I’ve got loads of sheds with neon signs in, piled up. And I thought, what am I going to call it? And then I read about this book that was about an architect in the 60s who didn’t like urban America because of all the movie signs, petrol stations, gambling casinos, diners on Route 66, and big signs all over the landscape. He said ‘they’re turning God’s own country into God’s own junkyard!’ And I thought, yeah, that’s what I’ve got here. I’ve got all this stuff from God’s own junkyard which is very much like America, with all these signs. I love this stuff so much, I thought if God had a junkyard it would be full up with all this stuff, these neon signs, because I think God would really like all this stuff. It’s really magical to me.” (via unknown editors)
Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Martinez (previously featured here) not only works with the messages that are seen daily on Any Major Inner City Street USA, he also uses the favored communication method of the majority of these messages to give additional contextual weight to his artistic turns of phrases. While Martinez has been lauded as The Man in Art & Design 2013 (Complex Magazine), Latinos on the Rise as well as Artist on the Rise at Scope Miami, it seems to sell the artist’s work short by boxing it in to an ethnic or inner-city-only messages, considering the crux of his work focuses on themes (consumerism, globalism, mental and physical health, violence, money, race, and a multi-cultural future) which effect the broadest ranges of a global society. To simply state that he uses the vernacular of the disenfranchised would be limiting the unique, darkly-egalitarian perspective Martinez brings to his work, as well as the implication against an unnamed force that keeps the Everyman (no matter their ethnicity or background) from achieving the most basic of human goals.Martinez expands on this idea, “People feel it’s accessible, complex but it still invites. It’s like a kiss on the cheek and a punch to the gut all at the same time. It’s not elitist, but relatable.”
While many of the artist’s works freely delve into multimedia (the combination of still-life realism painting with neon sign craftsmanship), Martinez’s works statement claims a simpler message. “Patrick focuses on the phenomenology of his surroundings. He brings sublime beauty to things that aren’t thought of as conventionally beautiful. He uses subject matter such as everyday people that aren’t usually painted into the limelight and elements of the city that would be thought of as objects we take for granted.”
Martinez’s upcoming exhibition, Buy Now, Cry Later at Public Functionary in Minneapolis, MN, promises to continue this tradition simultaneous cultural exploration and criticism. By focusing a glowing eye on the viewer, Martinez builds metaphors of consumption and the unending needs of Capitalism and the Human Spirit in the modern world. Buy Now, Cry Later opens Friday, November 15th and runs through Friday, December 20th.
Text art seems to be popping up everywhere these days in a multitude of diverse forms, although the use of text in art is inarguably not a new movement. However, when it comes to using words in visual art, several artists of different ages and sub-genres have found ways to burn their words into our brains. The pieces featured here have real stay-power. Whether the artist employs a blinking pattern between words, such as Bruce Nauman does, or draws rawly from their cultural background and related personal experience, such as Glenn Ligon and Patrick Martinez, these works deliver a very contemporary message. With simple language, and a sometimes poetic-sometimes brash- sense of honesty, these neon text-based works transcend many other works of text based art made today. Artists featured here include: Bruce Nauman, Patrick Martinez, Tracey Emin, Jill Magid, Glenn Ligon, Robert Montgomery and Jung Lee. The works speak for themselves- yet we encourage you to read between the lines.
We are comparable to moths. This is what I think Bernardi Roig is doing with his mixed media pieces: allowing us to see our own attractions to the glowing lights brought forth with the Information Age. From computers to iPhones to tablets– our desire is instinctual or . . . mindlessly animalistic. I’m thinking here also about near death experiences: going towards the light. Remember that iconic scene from Poltergeist? Carol Ann. This too. It’s not about where our bodies gravitate or evolve, but how we speak to the light and what we leave behind as we travel towards it.
San Francisco-based metalsmith and neon artist Meryl Pataky has shared with us some behind-the-scenes moments from her studio, as she gears up for her next solo project, Cellar Door.
Working exclusively with elements from the periodic table, Pataky uses a collision of phrase and loose linework to give life to her concepts—silver, copper, iron, carbon, neon and all of the noble gases are integral to her investigations. For her latest collection of work, Pataky is creating a series of signage-based installations that attempt to coexist with natural elements. Matching up blown glass with honey, and pairing neon lettering with leafy underbrush, she explores the effect that context and concept have on her luminous, typically commercial medium. The vivid colors and natural, flowing use of line in her pieces echo a mastery of medium, and her nods to just the right amount of science geekery are playful and perfectly timed.
With a somewhat brutal realness, artist (and YBA member) Tracey Emin confronts her viewers with work that is provocative, personal—and stakes claim to a sizeable piece of feminist-advised contemporary art landscape. She works in a variety of media, choosing to work in a combination of sculpture, painting and installation.
Her most recent body of work hinges on ideas of self-discovery, reflection and vulnerability. An installation of quiet, pleading text-based sculptures rest on tables surrounded by raw, harshly expressionist gouache drawings. It feels as though the work overall serves as some kind of confession, because it possesses a strange openness, even as the concepts float from neon to paper to projection.
I Followed You To The Sun is on view at Lehmann Maupin through June 30.
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important message from your environment courtesy of Jung Lee, master translator, whose photographs place neon signage in unconventional places, working as emotive subtitles.
Each piece reminds us– it’s not necessarily the people we are searching for in relation to love, but the lingering romanticism of time and space: the feeling of earth cradling our fall.