“You end up making a lot of words in the world of neon,” Krypton Neon Studio co-founder and artist Kenny Greenberg said as he sifted through a pile of discarded words in his Long Island City shop. Twisted white tubes that turn a spectrum of bright colors when plugged in lay on the concrete ground — “smile,” “come,” “the,” “a” and “extraordinary.”
The words come from broken signs and Broadway play displays. The “a” came from a neon piece for the traveling performance of “The Producers.” During the show’s travels they broke the “a” several times, and Krypton would have to ship a replacement to wherever they were. After several last minute Fed-Exes they decided to make a backup just in case.
The “a” never broke again.
Some of the other words were literally left on Greenberg’s doorstep.
When he owned a shop on Vernon Boulevard, people who presumably didn’t want their neon signs anymore, but didn’t know how to discard the toxic tubes, would, by cover of night or silently during the day, drop the broken signs on his doorstep.
Greenberg will be combining these words and new works for “Word,” which is one of the many exhibits during this week’s LIC Arts Open — a neighborhood event when galleries, stores, studio and performance spaces display recent and loved works.
Greenberg will team with neon artist and Krypton employee Tom Unger and artist William Garrett as well.
Unger created a piece that plays with the words “walk, slide, trip, stumble and fall.”
Each word ruminates on what it means. The letters in “slide” look like they are sliding. The “m” in “stumble“ stumbles over the “b” and the “b” over the “l.”
“The works play with the feel of the word,” said Unger, who rarely creates words for his artistic pieces, though he has penned several columns on neon technique for a trade journal. (Of course writing about neon is much different than creating neon words.)
The third artist in the show, Garrett, opts not to use fire and gases to create his art.
Instead he will hang several magnetic panels throughout the lit-up space.
One series, “Relationships parts 1, 2 and 3,” is made of grids of repeating words. One will have 23 framed magnets that say “love” and one “you.” Another panel is the same concept but lots of “thanks” and one “you.” The last is lots of the four-letter word that starts with “f” and one “you.”
“Obviously Fu** can have a double meaning” Garrett said.
Such is the same for “We should have done it on the first night.” This piece will not be shown, but led to the exhibited “It’s your dirty mind not mine.”
Garrett’s then-12-year-old daughter years ago questioned her father’s sexy phrase. To that he replied she was the one with her mind in the gutter.
“Define ‘it’,” he said. “It could have been laundry on the first night, or really anything.”
“The meaning is in the eye of the beholder,” Garrett said, adding that it is the point of show to be full of double entendres and at times “massively immature.”
Which makes this show just that much more fun.
The printed version of this story classified the gas in neon works as "poisonous." Krypton Neon Studio Founder Kenny Greenberg would like to clarify that this is not exactly true:
"Neon and argon gas are completely inert. It is however true that many colors employ a droplet of metallic mercury as do fluorescent and CFL bulbs, but these are rarely released from a broken sign because they would need to be vaporized. The EPA itself states that by far the danger is from the tons of methyl mercury when power plants burn coal. This converted form of mercury finds itself into our waters, fish, and our bodies. I am not aware of any cases of mercury poisoning from any lamps in the over 100 year history."
When: May 18 and 19, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reception May 17, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: Krypton Neon Studio, 5-26 46 Ave. second floor
Tickets: Free, neonshop.com