Neon is back with a bang of late (not literally of course, as it’s an inert gas – damn I miss Bob Monkhouse), but back from the wilderness of squalid kebab shops and seedy nightclub signs, no longer flickering uncertainly but grabbing you by the ears and locking on your gaze with an explosion of colour and a simplicity and clarity of form. Nostalgic restoration projects in Warsaw and Las Vegas are helping preserve the historic impact of yesteryear’s neon signs; whilst contemporary artworks like those of Tracey Emin and renewed interest in these older works by Bruce Nauman are bending the rules of what the tubes can do, elevating the previously low-rent to high-art.
It’s good to see an artist go balls-out with a project – call it Mindfuck and if you’ll forgive the continued vulgarity, it’s shit or bust. Happily for Nauman, it’s shit, or rather it’s the shit. The North Gallery of London’s Hauser and Wirth has opened up its doors and an x-rated army of bold, rude and imaginatively perverse neon installations from throughout Nauman’s career have marched in and set up camp. Like their creator, this work is balls out, dicks out (and dicks in as well as it happens), with an implied two fingers in the air to propriety. As the great Kenny Everett famously and disingenuously quipped, “it’s all in the best possible taste”. It is not, but it is fun, and a little of that goes a long way these days.
You can look for Nauman’s psychologically and philosophically-informed themes of human nature, mind/body dualism, death, aggression and sexuality until the lights go out on Bruce Nauman / mindfuck at the Saville Row gallery on 9th March.