by Andrew Page
Electric light comes in many varieties, each with its own attributes—from the green-tinged blaze of a mercury-vapor streetlamp to the flat white sheen of an energy-efficient LED array. And then there’s neon, which does not burn so much as smolder with a penetrating glow, like hot embers. Neon uses electrified neon (or another gas for colors other than red) as its “filament,” which can easily snake through intricately bent tubing. Pioneering works in 1940s and 1950s by Gyula Kosice in Argentina and Lucio Fontana in Italy would see the technology first introduced into works of art. But it wasn’t until the late 1960s, when artists such as Bruce Nauman began to deploy its unique power to incorporate text into artwork, that it became firmly entrenched in the American art world.
In his debut feature, GLASS managing editor Malcolm Morano takes the measure of the use of neon as an art material, tracing a line from a seminal 1967 Nauman text-based work, through the contributions of Studio Glass artists who tackled technical challenges, to a new generation of artists who actively incorporate neon for the unmatched qualities of the light itself.