Linda Sue Price, “Pause”
TAG, The Artists’ Gallery, Santa Monica
by Genie Davis
Linda Sue Price’s work quite simply glows, inside and out. In her current exhibition, “Hitting the Pause Button,” Price shines a light — a neon light — on current events and culture. Mixing words and abstract neon shapes, her neon images transfix while her words are seared into the humming patterns of light.
Linda Sue Price, “Pause,” 2015, neon and mixed media.
Price has said she is inspired by certain phrases that resonate for her, culled from her observations of human activity. An article she’d read about the translation of Chinese poetry first triggered her interest in combining words with neon. As important as verbiage is to her as an artist, she made a conscious decision not to craft the words out of neon, rather, saving the bending of her tubes for her sensual, abstract forms. The artist says her goal is to create images that “mix form and light, texture and reflection.” Price chooses to showcase the neon tubes in and of themselves, emphasizing the ways in which they can be bent and shaped, making that raw experience accessible and an equally dominant focus of the works.
In each of Price’s works the neon shapes are curved, curled, voluptuous, like living creatures, amoebas, snakes, butterflies pinned in place. Where the neon looks as if it could break free, dance or slither away, the words weigh each piece, grounding both the neon tubing and the works themselves. The backgrounds range from plain and reflective to textured, always serving the visual image produced by the neon. While her initial color source is dependent on the particular gas, such as neon’s red or argon’s purple, the artist also uses colored glass tubing and fluorescent powders painted or baked inside the tubing. This creates beading in the tube, creating a seemingly vast array of color choices.
In “Pause,” the word is perched on a jagged background, which shines with the green neon tube curled next to it, conjuring an image of a neon caterpillar and a word leaf caught in its tracks. Above this arrangement, a vibrant fuchsia arc, while fluttering against it we see a curved red shape that could be a butterfly. The meaning conjured by these shapes and this word conjures is that moment of transition — pause, and become.
“Curves Ahead” evokes the image of a warning road sign. Her central neon here is a hot yellow, nearly splattered across an angular green and lavender neon shape. Should we hold back those curves? Go with them? Similarly, the two blue amoeba-like forms in “Renew” spill over the edges of an incomplete red, green, and blue rectangle. The word renew is framed in red, a command. If we do not renew, what will happen? Will we stay as static as the broken rectangle? There is no clear answer. “Nothing is black or white,” a quote attributed to Nelson Mandela, is framed in a neutral painted beige neon tube, while beaded silver and pale blue snakes of neon twine above it.
Shaping life lessons, Price develops her neon from the power of the words themselves. They’re both her inspiration and her anchor. The glowing tubes and her phrases, presented in a variety of typefaces and formats, form a dialog, point and counterpoint. What Price terms the “energy of the word” informs both shape and color. The fluidity of her shining shapes alludes to the idea that for Price, change is perhaps the most profound form of communication.
Two other artists share the space with Price. Working in oil on canvas, Dan Janotta’s serene “Back To The Beach” captures coastal images and urban beach culture, contrasting peaceful sunsets and rolling waves with the skyline of Santa Monica. Janotta’s background as an architect serves as a jumping-off point for his fluid yet defined painting style. This is a quintessentially Californian world, from tattooed surfers contemplating waves to a meditative figure watching the setting sun. The images are softly haunting and almost tribal.
Alison Lowe Platt’s “Instinct” presents a mix of small drawings and paintings all created during live studies of models. Light and shadow are used in a variety of techniques, at once impressionistic and abstract. Using acrylic on board and mixed media collage, Platt’s work definitively captures the essence of each person she depicts, whether seen as a patterned shape or a more intimate and accurate portrayal of the human body.