Art + Science + Craft IV: Linda Sue Price and Michael Flechtner at the Fine Arts Building
through April 8, 2018
By Genie Davis
The perfect space for showing neon art may very well be the Fine Arts Building in downtown LA, where the elaborate glass enclosed nooks make beautiful alcoves for displaying the glowing works, and the Renaissance architecture a terrific contrast for this modern art form.
Neon, like the building itself, was once considered old school, at least in terms of its commercial usage. But as an art form, it is cutting edge, and as neon artists, Linda Sue Price and Michael Flechtner are as cutting edge and exciting as neon gets.
Through April 8th, viewers will have the chance to see both artists’ provocative, lustrous works; with Price and Flechtner’s art displayed along the right and left walls of the gallery space.
Price’s work uses abstract shapes bent free form without a pattern. Each tube is unique, and each mixed media sculpture is a beautiful abstract series of shapes. She explains, “Abstract forms are used as a way to see neon differently.” Price is interested in how people respond to change in the world. It’s clear that for her the process of change itself in regard to her art-making is also key. Influenced by pop art and graphic design, her works are nonetheless utterly original, both symbolic and transcendent. Her piece “Sequoia” is the perfect example of this, a curved, tree-like shape in vivid green set against a darker green photographed background of actual trees, meadow, and stream; a curved silvery neon piece at the bottom of the image resembles the movement of water. Price has taken nature, transformed it, refined and encapsulated all that it is into a concept of nature and beauty, an emblazoned primal memory. With “Seeds,” bright beaded orange, hot pink, and a rich lemon yellow are the colors of the burgeoning shapes Price has created. They seem ready to burst forth, to grow. Here the background image is also abstract, a mosaic-like pattern. It is a summoning and a calling to the viewer, symbols of growth, and birthing that are almost embryonic. Flying against a hazy background image of sky and clouds, “Red Goose” is a beautiful abstract form that clearly represents a flying bird, and perched upon it, a green shape resembles a frog riding its back. Viewers feel alight, as if carried on the bird’s back themselves; there is a radiance here – and in much of Price’s exhibition — that comes not just from the neon but in the jubilant curves and twists of her work, an exhilarating sense of form redefined.
Flechtner’s work involves language; the language of words, as with his piece “Neon Sloganeering” and the blazing red words that joke “Mat Gleason Before He Mats You,” referring to a mainstay of the LA art scene; or words rendered from shapes. Smart, often funny and trenchant, Flechtner’s works are never quite what they appear to be. Even if words are not literally involved, his images form meaning. A red devil’s head moves back and forth in “The Devil is in the Details.” He depicts animals, machinery, human hands folded across a chest with a fish, a duck, and a monkey floating above the neck. “I bring forth and arrange this highly idiosyncratic material to create pictograms, ideograms and rebuses, surely the effects of my unconscious,” he says. Often playful, always exciting, Flechtner takes what could be traditional images and makes them into new, yet recognizable figures and forms, creating witty and riveting juxtapositions. In “Oh Honey No Don’t Do It,” we have two glowing honey bears atop the letters O NO, with the word DUET inserted within the second O. Flechtner has served up an entirely new approach to these words, given them new meaning and a fresh look, creating a visual pun that makes viewers look and look again. With “Gnash” a minimal, clean image of a shark with open red mouth juts from the work, making the viewer poised to retreat from an imminent bite. “Want Palm Red” offers verbal and visual teasers: the hand with its exposed red streaked palm is ready for a psychic to trace; the hand itself and its shape also resembles a palm tree. Working with humor and grace, Flechtner’s work, like Price’s, encourages long contemplation.
Price challenges and soothes the viewer with her primarily non-figurative forms, allowing one to imagine and soar with the light and color and magic of her works. Flechtner takes a more figurative approach to his pieces, forming less ephemeral images which are nonetheless also passionately evocative, and create meaning within meaning, through beautiful layers of language and symbol and image.
Art + Science + Craft is an apt title for this show: each is on display in these artists’ works, the wonder of their art, the science and craft it takes to make it, and the combination of all three evident in what lights up not only the works themselves but the minds and hearts of viewers observing it. It’s a rich alchemy indeed.