Note: This exhibit is scheduled to close on 5/27/07.
The medium of choice for San Francisco artist David O. Johnson is neon lighting. He has acquired the technical, manual, and safety skills required to construct neon projects himself. In the past he has embedded neon in walls and in concrete cubes. In his new show at the compact Little Tree Gallery, he lets the neon stand alone (with help from power transformers, naturally).
The most elaborate work in the show is a representation of an old-fashioned upholstered chair (photo at top), which is stabilized by a number of thin cords attached to the ceiling. There is actually a bit of a tradition in neon furniture. Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco has available two such works from the mid-1970s, by Joe Rees. And young Chilean artist Iván Navarro, based in New York, has been doing neon versions of Modernist classics.
At the opening for Johnson’s show, a visitor squatted over the chair sculpture as if preparing to sit down. This caused a flurry of comment on the cluelessness of some gallery visitors. The concern is legitimate. According to the Anaba blog, one of Navarro’s neon chairs was destroyed when a visitor sat on it during the “Artificial Light” exhibit curated by John Ravenal in 2006.
Johnson’s two-faced sign that reads “OPEN” and “CLOSED” seems to capture our social—and political— uncertainty about who and what is truly open. It would work well in a hall of mirrors. (Photo below.)
The third neon piece in the show spells out “LOITER”—the title of the show. It’s a welcome intervention in a Walk/Don’t Walk world. (Photo below.)