Being a neon artist is being a sculptor of light. Neon can indeed take original forms. They allow you to write sentences or to draw easily. Initially limited to illuminated signs in the streets, artists began to use the material in the 1940s. Today, discover 7 neon artists that we love…
1. James Turrell, the Sculptor of Light
James Turrell is an American artist who uses light and space as his main material. He uses vellum, neon, halogen, and the sun, as others would use a brush and colors. Neon is an important part of James Turrell’s art. Because neon is sharp and fluorescent it contrasts with the mat and diffused lights. It creates more contrasting spaces. And when you see a work by James Turrell, a strange feeling inhabits the viewer. You feel like you are being penetrated by the light, and neon often plays a big part in it.
2. Robert Montgomery, the Neon Poet
Robert Montgomery is a British artist who writes short poems with light. He sometimes uses fire to make “fire poems”. But above all, he is a neon artist. Thanks to this flexible and docile material, he displays its messages in public places. The texts are a little melancholic, sometimes ecological, always a bit philosophical and the viewer is often surprised to discover them on the edge of a beach or in the heart of a city. At night, they spring from the darkness. So for a moment, this neon artist opens up a new space for reflection…
3. Martial Raysse, the Neon Pop Artist
Martial Raysse is a French artist, close to the American pop art movement and French New Realism. He is above all a painter. His works generally adress the icons of our society: feminine beauty, art history, hobbies… And he gives them a pop and colorful touch. Raysse uses all types of materials: plastic, plexiglass, mirrors, photos, but there neon marks some of his most famous works. On a portrait, in the middle of a painting, the neon becomes like a small advertising logo… An eye-catcher, almost in an outrageous way.
4. Dan Flavin, the Minimal Neon Artist
Dan Flavin is an American minimalist artist. Unlike most neon artists, Dan Flavin is satisfied with fluorescent tubes of neon found in the trade. There’s no frills with this artist seeking purity. His installations often consist of a few industrial neon rods, placed in a room in a geometric arrangement. The work radiates, the light has been objectified. The work itself eventually merges with the three dimensions of the real space. In the words of Donald Judd, another famous American minimalist artist, Dan Flavin creates “particular visual states”.
5. Tracey Emin, the Neon Trash Artist
Tracey Emin is a British artist, who uses painting, installation, sculpture and neon. She is part of the YBA (Young British Artists), a group that appeared on the art scene in the 1980s. Like the rest of the group, Tracey Emin is adept at provocation and shock. Her works often bear traces of the somewhat disillusioned cynicism of a postmodern world where benchmarks are collapsing. In her neon art, she deliberately writes texts that are a little cliché. She bends the neon lights to imitate the spontaneity of handwriting. They are messages of love, laden with expletives, sometimes jeering.
6. Gyula Košice, the Inventor of the Art of Neon
In 1946, Gyula Košice was the first artist to use fluorescent neon tubes in his works. This Argentinian artist, born in 1924, is a pioneer of what is called light art: an expression that uses light as the main material. He also contributed greatly to the development of optical art and kinetic art, or two currents that rely on the movement of the view, and the viewed object.
7. Leila Pazooki, the Artist of Political Neon
Leila Pazooki is an Iranian artist whose work questions – among other themes – the place of women in the Arab world and in Islam. The activism is devoid of provocation and she even manages to infuse it with a certain cheerfulness. Despite the injustices they echo, the works retain a positive charge. They are sometimes paintings, sculptures, photos, installations, or neon sculptures. The artist often uses neon lights to write short texts or juxtapositions of words that serve her purpose.
The art of neon allows for varied artistic expressions. From its purely industrial use by minimalists to its pop aspect reminiscent of illuminated store signs, the works of neon artists cover a wide range of areas. What’s your favorite?