Néon, Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue ?

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Jean-Michel Alberola, 'Rien', 1994
Courtesy Galerie Templon, Paris Jean-Michel Alberola, 'Rien', 1994

France’s electricity board EDF will be rubbing their hands together about this one: The “Néon, who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue?” exhibition at Maison Rouge is the first major retrospective devoted to neon art, covering the 1950s to the present. For three whole months, the electricity meter will tick away as you cruise past pioneering pieces by artists such as Jean-Michel Alberola, known for his metaphysical neon messages written on walls, and Dan Flavin who uses the abstract neon lights to take over empty spaces in novel ways.

Around a hundred artworks, many of historical importance, will be on show, leading you from the beginnings of neon as a form of expression, to the minimalism of the sixties and forward to today’s creations, signed by neon artists like Jason Rhoades, Jeppe Hein, Alfredo Jaar, Sue Webster & Tim Noble.

Fancy a recap on the the history and the science?
History: The first neon tube, was created by French scientist Georges Claude in 1910. He later patented the technology in the USA and sold his first neon signs (reading ‘Packard’) in 1923. It was artist Lucio Fontana who showed the first ever neon work in Europe however - a vast, glowing, suspended whirlpool that found fame in 1951 at Milan’s Triennial.

Science: On the right of Mendeleev’s periodic table you find several mono-atomic ‘noble’ gases. Under pressure and when an electric current is passed through them, these otherwise odourless and colourless gases produce a coloured light: Neon (Ne), from neos (‘new’ in Greek) turns red. Argon (Ar) produces blue, while sodium vapour is yellow - hence the colours mentioned in the expo's name.

By: AB


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