Queen of neon Meryl Pataky is back at it again with a solo show at Stephanie Chefas Gallery in Portland. The San Francisco-based neon artist and curator continues to playfully merge the tactile and the technical, experimenting with the effects of introducing unusual materials to her light-focused neon sculptures. The exhibit, which was left intentionally untitled to illustrate the experimental mindset of the artist, consists of neon tubular sculptures and miniature palm trees that Pataky has coated in a quick cast of resin and black pigment, resulting in otherworldly pieces that glow and drip, oozing spatters of dark resin like an oil spill lit by iridescent moonlight.
Simulating the slow leak of an overworked transformer, the effect of the work is palpable: the pieces move with an unsettling radioactive energy, giving off a unique view from every angle. The florescent miniature palm trees, which Pataky first debuted at Art Basel in 2013, are given the same quick cast treatment, their illuminated fronds smothered with inky resin side-eyeing Instagram culture’s oversaturated embrace of the neon art world. The show as a whole reads as a bold love letter to the happy accident of experimentation and the power of playing within your medium even after you have mastered it. Harnessing the overlapping energies of light and dark, this self reflective body of work is a powerful and layered visual metaphor about what happens when art turns into content and the machine that we find ourselves in starts to malfunction.
As Pataky herself puts it: “The work has become self-aware. It knows how ubiquitous it is and yet so misunderstood. It knows it will be in pop-culture’s favor for now, as it has seen itself before so many times in its past, but soon fall again when it becomes oversaturated and squeezed for all of its luster, turned to kitsch and trifle through the scramble for profit on a trend. Fossilized in Instagram moments, glowing truisms hung over beds, and clichés on nightstands. In every artist’s portfolio. It’s all happened before. When a neon transformer begins to die, it leaks tar. The motor has been turning for awhile. And then it dies.”
Catch her untitled solo show at Stephanie Chefas Gallery (305 SE 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97214) through July 28th. Don’t miss it!