Sunday, August 9, 2015

Photo Essay: The Fine Art of Neon

One of the gems of Downtown Los Angeles is the 1926 Fine Arts Building, whose terra-cotta faces of humans and gargoyles loom above 7th Street in a 12-story palace of Romanesque Revival architecture. It stands there brightly, even when it's dark out.



It was built to house artists and artisans as a live/work space. Their works were showcased (and hopefully sold) in the glass display cases in the lobby, which rises three stories high.



Fortunately, art exhibits still rotate through the Fine Arts Building's lobby gallery, though the tenants upstairs have changed dramatically over the last 90 years. Although the foyer is open to the public all day and night, every day, it seemed appropriate to visit its most recent installation, Art + Science + Craft II, at night, to bask in the anachronistic glow of neon amidst the decorative tiles of Ernest Batchelder and murals and paintings by A.B. Heinsbergen.



The show, which closed today, featured the works of two LA-based neon artists, Linda Sue Price and Michael Flechtner. Flechtner's work received national attention when it appeared on a postage stamp: the US Postal Service commissioned him to design the "Neon Celebrate!" commemorative stamp, issued in 2011.



A masterful sculptor and glass-bender, Flechtner has a certain affinity for animals, especially cats (as in his "Katabachi")...



...dogs (as with his "Jigu Zagu" neon sculpture), bees, sharks and other fish, as well as planes and robots.



He occasionally sculpts human forms, too, though frequently in stick figure form. From his Crate Series, the exhibit also included his "She's a Hot Mess."



Linda Sue Price actually learned her craft from Flechtner, in a class he taught at the Museum of Neon Art (soon to reopen in Glendale).



This exhibit focused on her "Words" series, including "Change," "Consider"...



..."Forget"...



..."Impermanence"...



..."Movement" (which features some nice beading, a feature of many of her works)...



..."Reveal"...



..."Pause"...



...and "Renew."

All of the neon sculptures—as opposed to the neon signs we're accustomed to seeing on marquees and liquor store blade signs —are uniquely three-dimensional, and seem to undulate before your eyes even without animations powered by transformers and controllers.

Each of the neon artworks were in their own glass chambers in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building, creating illusory reflections and a certain double vision of light and color. But for those of us who are always craning our necks out car windows and up from the sidewalk to catch a glimpse or snap a picture of some colorful neon hanging way above our heads, it was quite a treat to stand at eye level with these creations which are distinctly not advertisements, whose purpose is simply to delight.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Collection of the Museum of Neon Art, In Storage
Photo Essay: The Neon of LA, and Its One Darkened Dragon
Photo Essay: The Treasures of an LA Tourist Trap, Universal Studios