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