Art + Science + Craft VI – Neon Perfection
Fine Arts Building, Los Angeles
through March 7
Written by Genie Davis
When Linda Sue Price and Michael Flechtner offer a paired exhibition of neon art at the Fine Arts Building, it is a perfect triumvirate of two artists and one setting. Art + Science + Craft VI is their sixth such exhibition, and it is a beautiful one.
First, the venue: The Fine Arts Building in DTLA is a made-for neon setting, with display alcoves on both walls, a fountain in the center, and a cathedral-like appearance. If you were to envision a Church of Neon, this would be it – American sculptor Burt W. Johnson created the exterior cast-stone reliefs and interior bronze sculptures. Opened in 1926, the building was originally designed to hold artists’ studios and businesses. It’s elaborate façade includes large-scale modeled figures in the style of Michelangelo; inside, Beaux-Arts sculptures based on Johnson’s children grace the fountain. Ernest Batchelder designed the tile work and cabinets; Katherine Ingels sculpted the Muses on the mezzanine level; Anthony Heinsbergen was responsible for the ceiling murals.
And now, there is neon. Through March 7th, Price and Flechtner offer separate solo exhibitions that fit beautifully in the building’s alcoves on either side of the gallery space.
Price’s work has a timeless quality. Abstract and dreamlike, the images she creates here include one collaboration with artist Tracey Weiss; all are bent free-form, creating individual tubes that are entirely unique. Price says her use of abstract is “a way to see neon differently.” Here titled simply as “Plan B” numbers, each of the works has an exhilarating, transcendent radiance that is a real fusion of the exhibition’s title – art created through the intricate, delicate craft of neon-making and infused with the science of experiment.
Price works from concept to creation; and rather than utilizing a core image, she relies on a meditative process, as well as being inspired by her personal observations of the human condition, other artworks, historic neon, graphic design, and the concept of abstract expressionism, but through the dimensionality of neon, her lush use of color, and her evocative shapes, the work goes beyond medium and specific image, bonding both together in a synthesis of curve and palette.
Her “Plan B-1” gives us straight angles in a broken rectangular shape with her signature curves and twists within and jewel-like, sparklingly reflective plastic clusters edging these angles. The floral plastic components created by Weiss are also reflective of neon glow, and add an extra dimension to “Plan B-4” in an exciting collaboration. “Plan B-2” includes a glittering background that could’ve come from an interstellar disco. And in “Plan B-6,” it is neon beading that adds a startling dimension, in a piece that evokes flamingos as well as musical notes.
Flechtner’s work reflects a different, more literal fascination with neon, creating his work with the symbols of language, technology, and how they influence popular culture. His primarily figurative images reflect the artist’s self-professed childhood fascination with “electricity, fire and colored light of any sort,” many are delightful visual puns. The artist says his work “reflects my sense of humor. I love color and movement.” Examples include Flechtner’s witty “Global Warming,” in which a cow’s posterior shoots out an orange flame; “Cowpie” gives us the bovine’s head with the symbol for pi on its forehead. “Largesse” gives us, a large, golden outline of an “s.” His ruby-red neon shark fin is placed in the Fine Art’s building’s fountain.
Paired, the works on exhibit in the Fine Arts Building reflects two very different and compelling approaches to neon fabrication; both artists expressing great joy and – yes, electrifying – beauty in their work.