Neon art in the history of art: a brief introduction into neon at the Biennale in Venice
Neon art has been around since 1940. Shortly after the uprise of the first neon light installations in the urban neon advertisement, artists began to experience with the medium, and created what now disrupts the art world like a thunderstorm. The highlights are now to be seen at the 56. Biennale in Venice (9.May-22.November 2015), where Bruce Naumann has traditionally caused quite the stir. Further important neon artists are Dan Flavin, Tracey Emin, and Maurizio Nannucci.
Neon Installations and Neon Art
Neon lights essentially focus on great lightening, on conveying a message in the advertisement world, but also inherently lend themselves to art: every neon light is handmade and is naturally fragile, through the usage of thin glass. Neon advertisement is sometimes considered mundane, whereas the recipient of handmade neon in an art context is mostly overwhelmed. Funny, isn't it? Nonetheless, neon light is an advertisement signal within the urban jungle. Nobody can escape the daily signals. These messages have been picked up around 75 years ago by artists. Maurizio Nannucci, for example, asked in a provocative manner for fears of red, light and blue. Nannucci however, only made a reference to the creator of "colour-field-painting", who also caused some controversy - we are of course speaking about Barnett Newman. Handmade neons were based on these colours and continue to disrupt normal conventions with different sets of colours based on these combinations. Neon and handmade glass is able, besides the advertisement, to create a second layer of thinking. Some cartoonist achieve this with a few lines. Neon artists follow this skill and define a message with a few tubes of glass. Many messages of neon light installations are understood intuitively, some require some further analysis
The world has seen quite a number of substantial ambassadors of neon art. From the aforementioned, the New York born Dan Flavin (1933-1996) is probably the most famous of his kind. Flavin ultimately lifted neon lights into the status "art". He started in 1963 in the most simple of ways: Flavin hung a 244cm neon tube into his art space and called this "diagonale of personal ecstasy". This minimal intervention caused a maximal outcome, also because of the choice of neon colour: the art was created through a golden taint of the tube, that transformed the mundane piece into something of a higher, spiritual level, contrasting against neon advertisement. Or maybe, Flavin was being once again ironical and playing critically with the opinion of the contemporary art world - with big and artsy words.
Flavin does not use handmade neon, which may also have technical reasons. His choice of solely industrial manufactured tubes continues way beyond his lifetime of creation. Dan Flavin, when reading through his interviews, is known to oppose contemplation and psychology. He is attracted towards immediate perception, but may resort to deception. Other neon artists are more concrete and in-the-face: Maurizio Nannucci (*1939) used handmade neon for three overlapping letters: "ART" was the name of the installation, assembled from red, yellow and blue neon tubes. Tracy Emin (1963*) wrote "Just love me" in a pink light installation. Francois Morellet, on the other side, worked with light design in the field of geometric abstraction, that created a minimalism between light and movement - so did critics proclaim at the Documenta in Kassel (1964). The Biennale in Venice already showed his work in 1970.
Light Design at the Biennale in 2015
Neon light installations at the Biennale remain provocative and political. The Algerian Adel Abdessemed created in 2015 created the piece "Nympheas" (water lillies) by driving knives brutally into the ground - Bruce Naumann surrounded these knifes by loud neon. His "American Violence" is created from colourful neon advertisement messages. Naumann want to portray life and death, love and pain. He uses light design as an artistic medium for the ecstatic expression of deep antagonisms. Modern neon art, in the eight decade since its inception, is more and more able to shape it's real identity, while not denying it's close relationship to advertisement.
Browse sygns to create personal neon art in the configurator or discover limited editions created in cooperation with selected neon artists.