Coverage of the exhibition Light Charmer, featuring an interview with curator Kathryn Hall and looks at work by Kate Bush and Lily Reeves. Published in Arts + Culture TX:
A shop owner flips a switch, sending a few thousand volts through glass tubes bent into the shape of the letters O-P-E-N. As an inert gas within the glass is electrified, the letters begin to glow an orange-red, signaling to potential customers that the shop is officially open for business.
Many store owners, restaurateurs, sign-makers, and other businesses switched from neon to fluorescent or LED signs long ago, but the aesthetic continues to enchant people. The lighted signs have a particular appeal that many people associate with a range of experiences, from small town bars to Route 66 to big cities like Tokyo or New York, bustling with different kinds of activities and aglow with advertisements. Just picture a sign blinking as a noir detective drops his cigarette in front of a shady business.
“There’s this kind of resurgence for neon in pop culture,” said Kathryn Hall, curator at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. “It might not be used in the same way, but there are constant references to it anywhere from graphic design to movies. Artists have been drawn to it for quite some time as well.”