From Lucio Fontana to Nina Canell: a brief photographic history of neon light in art


Writing the history of the use of neon light in art has always been a great challenge for scholars, as well as a source of inspiration for exhibitions. For instance, the show dedicated to this art tool – calling it a medium sounds a bit excessive – that took place in 2012 at the Maison Rouge, Paris. But of course that show was far from been exhaustive, and this history has not yet reached its end. That is why the new solo show of Nina Canell at the Camden Art Center (until 30 March 2014) has been too tempting for us to resist. Here is our easy history, starting from Lucio Fontana, who if not the first artist to use the neon – before him Zdeněk Pešánek in 1936 and Gyula Košice in 1946, according to the MoMA – was  probably the first doing it completely consciously. Furthermore, composing the gallery made us realize the important role that photography has been playing in the circulation of this kind of artworks.


January 17, 2014