NEON. La materia luminosa dell’arte, MACRO – Roma. The Catalogue

On the catalogue's cover: Paolo Scirpa. Expansion+cylindric translation, 1981. VAF Stiftung/MART, Trento and Rovereto

Present in our everyday lives for more than a century now, after having quickly become a symbol of modernity, neon is also one of the materials with the greatest expressive potential in the field of contemporary art. From the 50s on, its dematerialized energy, its intense range of colors and its particular adaptability to being shaped into two – or three – dimensional forms, symbols or letters, transformed it into a ductile and luminous “matter”, a medium of which artists have explored the communicative potential, phenomenological aspects and effects on the environment and the human psyche. The exhibition Neon. La materia luminosa dell’arte specifically investigates the legacy of these fluorescent tubes in the international artistic panorama over the past five decades, tracing a journey through different poetics, visions and sensibilities brought together by a shared attraction to the expressive possibilities of an extraordinarily versatile material that combines industrial origins and artisanal execution, architectural and linguistic dimensions, image and word, light and space.
While neon is disappearing from contemporary cities, replaced by more prosaic led-lit signs, visual art continues to remind us of its extraordinary history, and to open up still-unexplored possibilities.