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NEON is a group exhibition dedicated to neon light art as well as painted works in luminous, vibrant colors. The curator, Jens-Peter Brask, explains the motivation behind creating an exhibition with this particular common denominator: “Neon is able to do something that an ordinary image cannot. The colorful, curved light speaks directly to me; it touches me with an irrefutable immediacy.” Since its invention, this distinct immediacy or directness of the neon light has been an undeniable quality in commercial contexts, because it demands attention in an uncontested manner. Chemist and engineer Georges Claude, who is regarded as the French equivalent to Thomas Edison, originally presented neon tube lights to the public at the 1910 Paris Motor Show. Shortly after, a local barber shop was the first to employ Claude’s neon lights as advertising signs, but notable popularity didn’t arise until the new medium was introduced across the pond. On a trip to Las Vegas in 2008, Jens-Peter Brask visited the Neon Boneyard which made it clear that he’s definitely not alone in his love for neon lights, inasmuch as a whole cemetery exists to acknowledge retired neon signs. From the 1920s and onwards, neon signs became an integral part of the American landscape. As a signifier for various types of entertainment and indulgences, neon soon became related to amusement in the modern life. Thus, the directness has also given neon lighting a connotation of something raw, unpolished, or even vulgar. It’s not an aiding spotlight: Its function is not to make something else conspicuous – Rather, the material and subject is the light itself, unadulterated. In this way, the neon sign differs from other lamps by not just being a banal object which anonymously blends in with the surroundings. It is not simply illuminating, it is emanating, whether it be the glow of blatant materialism on Times Square or the glaring sensual associations in Amsterdam’s Red-Light District. With the medium traditionally being a part of the public domain, city life, and busy streets, the works in the exhibition reflect Jens-Peter Brask’s long-established affinity for contemporary art in more than one sense. Neon art typically reminds us of its origins in these artificial, urban environments. A lot of the works in NEON are made especially for the exhibition, and for a number of the artists, it is their first time working with the medium. Furthermore, several of the motifs found in the exhibition might just as well have been executed as regular graffiti, however, when meticulously crafted into neon tube lighting, they demand a significantly different approach from the viewer. The medium itself exudes confidence, and whichever form is materialized through the laborious process of making a neon sign – it’s quite a commitment – ostensibly suggests that it is something to be reckoned with; implying that the expression cannot simply be dismissed as being just a provisional scribble.


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