"Bending Light" glows as the Neuberger Museum's new exhibit



A five-minute drive down King Street from Sacred Heart Greenwich, the Neuberger Museum of Art’s current exhibitions, “Bending Light: Neon Art 1965 to Now” and “Stephen Antonakos: Proscenium,” glow as collections, demonstrating a collaboration across the art industry and innovations in science. The exhibits are on display and open to the public until Sunday, June 24. Within the neon exhibits, the museum showcases a variety of work including its permanent collection, loaned work from private art owners, and a site-specific environmental piece.

Mr. Ivan Navarro’s “Ocio” (2009) utilizes a one-way mirror on the floor of the gallery to manipulate light and create an illusion of repetition.
Daisy Steinthal ’19

The exhibit spans across two rooms of the gallery’s first floor. “Bending Light” illustrates the progression of both contemporary artistic thought and scientific advancements in regard to the understanding and application of neon gas scientifically, culturally, and artistically, since its discovery in 1898.
In the mid-20th-century, some artists began to use neon as a medium. Later in the 1960s, however, neon’s popularity boomed. Glass benders and artists began to collaborate to develop innovative ways to use neon signs as a means of displaying everything from flowing handwriting to precise geometric designs, according to neuberger.org
Greek-born American sculptor Mr. Stephen Antonakos acted as a pioneer in developing the use of neon as an art medium. His career extended from 1960 up until his death in 2013. Over his 50-year-long career, he designed 55 site-specific pieces, such as “Proscenium,” for art galleries all over the world, according to stephenantonakos.com.

“Proscenium” (2000) by Mr. Stephen Antonakos is a massive site-specific environmental artwork the museum commissioned for the Neuberger’s Theater Gallery. Daisy Steinthal ’19

He created “Proscenium” for the Neuberger Museum’s Theater Gallery in 2000, naming the piece after the Greek stage feature, according to neuberger.org. Proscenium arches surround the performance area of the stage, separating the stage from the audience. Mr. Antonakos’ abstract work uses scale, color, and shape to convey the natural movement and luminosity of light.
“For me, neon is not aggressive, but it has certain powers,” Mr. Antonakos said, according to the introductory wall label to “Proscenium.” “I simply thought so much more could be done with it abstractly than with words and images. I had a feeling that it could connect with people in real, immediate, kinetic, and spatial ways.”
The Neuberger’s other exhibit “Bending Light: Neon Art 1965 to Now” compliments and contextualizes Mr. Antonakos’ display. It showcases 12 pieces of art from 12 different artists in a variety of forms throughout neon art history. The juxtaposition of the eclectic and unrelated pieces works to highlight versatility through the medium, as well as a combination of chemistry, industry, and fine art within the pieces, according to neuberger.org.
“Warm Broad Glow” (2005) by Mr. Glenn Ligon is on loan to the exhibit from the Brant Foundation.
Daisy Steinthal ’19

Today, neon art is everywhere and growing in popularity as an element of photography and design. Whether in wall art, a captured photo, or film, neon’s bright colors and impact are both nostalgic and innovative, according to neuberger.org. This exhibit works to illustrate the history and development of this art form, as well as honor the collaboration and experimentation of 20th-century artists who expanded and popularized this medium.
“Neon has a graphic directness that is both vintage and contemporary, evoking images of roadside Americana and the illuminated architecture of modern cities,” the introductory wall label at the museum states. “The artists in ‘Bending Light’ use neon to expand concepts of language and message, light and line, technology, and the ethereal materiality of the trapped gas.”
– Daisy Steinthal, Photo Editor and Features Editor
Featured Image by Daisy Steinthal ’19