Opening This Week: NEON: The Charged Line

Neon is a certainty in an ever-changing art world. That reliable old friend, guaranteed to pop up at each and every fair at least twice. But how well do we really know it? A new show at Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery offers a closer look.

Neon can be many things; beautiful, atmospheric, overused. A material that at first may have seemed revolutionary is now all too predictable in many cases, single words spelled out over and over in pulsing pinks and blues. But does that image of neon in 2016 really do justice to the variety of works that have sprung — and continue to spring — from it?

NEON: The Charged Line brings early examples together with recent works, Joseph Kosuth’s droll Neon, 1965 — perhaps forewarning the future lack of subtlety that would dominate the medium? — sitting alongside Prem Sahib’s gloriously blue-throbbing BUMB, 2013. Sahib’s long-time ally Eddie Peake also showcases the exciting deviations for the medium with Verb, 2013; the wibbly outer lines of a muscular, dog-faced horizontal form glowing with the same icy blue light, devoid of text despite its tongue-in-cheek title.

We tend to encounter neon in singular bursts, dotted around larger fairs or shows where they appear cliched and tired (albeit, undeniable Instagram fodder), whereas this exhibition promises an in depth analysis, broken down by time periods, global locations and ways of working. Expect the usual suspects, Tracey Emin, Joseph Kosuth and Gavin Turk, although for once, they’re not entirely isolated from their history.

‘NEON: The Charged Line’ is showing at Grundy Art Gallery from 1 September 2016 until 7 January 2017

Joseph Kosuth, Neon (1965) Courtesy of the Artist, La maison rouge, Paris and Sprüth Magers Gallery London / Photograph by Marc Domage © Joseph Kosuth. All rights reserved, DACS 2016
Tracey Emin I know I know I know, 2002 © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2016
Bertrand Lavier Telluride II, 2005 Courtesy the artist and Kewenig, Berlin © Bertrand Lavier. All rights reserved, DACS 2016
Prem Sahib, BUMP 2013 neon glass tubing, acrylic 41 x 43 x 15 cm Courtesy the artist & Southard Reid, London
Tim Etchells More-Noise (2016), Lets-Pretend (Large) (2014), Mirror Pieces (2014) Neon, Installation View Bloomberg Space Jan-Mar-2016 Photo: Hugo Glendinning
François Morellet Lamentable Ø 5m blanc 2005 8 white neon tubes, transformer, cables, ed 2/3 Height : 250 < 380 cm Chord of each neon 190 cm Courtesy of Annely Juda Fine Art, London © François Morellet. All rights reserved, DACS 2016
Eddie Peake, Verb, 2013 Neon Dimensions variable Neon: 18 7/8 x 82 11/16 in. (48 x 210 cm) © Eddie Peake. Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)