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Neon, chemical symbol Ne, atomic number 10; from the Greek for “new” is a noble gas that was discovered in 1889 and later hailed for its beautiful red/orange glow when contained in a vacuum sealed glass tube and given a charge of electricity. Though the gas ultimately didn’t have the commercial impact its siblings Xenon and Krypton had there is no mistaking the impact neon has had on commercial signage, literally defining an era when the automobile was broadening Americans’ horizons and the highways and boulevards of America’s cities were filled with bright and often flashing come-ons. Today those original signs are vigorously collected for their great looks and nostalgic tug. Artists seeking to leverage this heritage, both timeless and time-warped have been using neon and other gas filled glass tubes to create a commentary in that vast and fertile ground where timelessness, kitsch, nostalgia, irony and literalness breed new strategies and new meanings. The seven artists featured in On Neon are part of a wave of interest that is transforming the medium in exciting and unexpected ways.
There has been a resurgence in interest in neon. Artists are readily adopting the material to create artworks and whether they are bending the glass themselves or having experts do the studio work for them they are pushing the medium in many directions simultaneously in an effort to make new objects that are steeped in history while authentically present in the moment.
Ken Saunders, 2020
(excerpt from exhibition catalogue)