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“Light Charmer”
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Kate Hush, "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair," 2015, 8mm Italian glass tubing filled with argon and neon gas, animated 120v power supplies, 50 x 40 x 2 1/2". Photo: Shahryar Kashani

Continuing through May 13, 2018

Glowing neon and plasma forms punctuate the darkened galleries, where nine artists present light-infused sculptures in “Light Charmer.” Commercial neon signs have largely been replaced by LEDs and fluorescent lighting, but many contemporary artists are exploring the various possibilities of this seductive medium. Although the term "neon" is used to denote the general type of lamp, pure neon gas is used to produce only about one-third of colors, mostly variations on red and orange. Blues, greens, violets, whites and other hues are produced by using argon gas with mercury. Kate Hush uses a full spectrum in her kinetic portraits of femme fatales. “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” is a woman taking a shower, her left arm delineated in yellow neon raised to the back of her head as water cascading from the shower head is represented by shifting dotted lines of blue. Its companion piece is a second figure who removes her wig as if to declare her disdain for the conventions of female beauty.

Several pieces by Michael Flechtner include working cameras constructed from neon-filled Plexiglas tubes, one of which the artist was using during the opening. Lily Reeves presented a performance piece that brought to life “Verisimilitude,” a video featuring the artist with collaborators Sharon McCamon and Fumihiro Kituchi. In “Methods of Healing,” Reeves invited attendees to experience healing by being subjected to glowing hoops with an electrical charge that produces a dim white light. Reeves also collaborated with James Akers on “Neon Sword Fight,” a battle between the two artists featuring glowing sword-like sculptures representing good and evil.

Plasma is a compelling medium for artists who wish to incorporate movement into their works, as the electrons in the material collide to create explosive effects. The plasma works of Eric Franklin, Mundy Hepburn and Aaron Ristau respond to our touch. Ashlin Williamson presents a dazzling blue ray gun and “Caught Red Handed,” a glowing skeletal hand. Sarah Blood comments on contemporary culture with “Untitled (Enough),” a curtain of black sequins upon which the word “ENOUGH” is spelled out in white neon. These nine artists from across the country have chosen to work in a challenging medium that requires both technical skill and scientific knowledge. It adds up to works of art that are both luminous and vibrant.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

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