Almost exactly one year ago, the Rutter Family Art Foundation (RFAF) presented their inaugural exhibition in a new arts venue named Work | Release, occupying the freshly renovated historic Texaco Building in Norfolk’s NEON District.
On April 1st, the foundation will present Writing Lightly, the second annual neon exhibition at Work | Release (759 Granby Street, Norfolk). This year’s exhibition is curated by the Chrysler Glass Studio’s Hannah Kirkpatrick, with assistance from Ali Feeney, and focuses on the visualization and interpretation of language through the use of neon and light. The opening celebration for Writing Lightly is Friday, April 1st, from 5pm-2am and the festivities continue Saturday, April 2nd at 5pm for Work | Release’s NEON 90s Birthday Party.
The exhibition includes world class artists from New York to Norfolk to Washington state and beyond. Each approach the medium of neon and light very differently; some working with fabricators or found objects, some as professional sign makers or graphic designers, and some creating new works entirely from scratch.
The name of the show, Writing Lightly, was chosen by Kirkpatrick to suggest a text based show using lighted materials, but also to ask the question of how much weight we put into words and communication. She encourages the viewers to question, “Are these works light or heavy with meaning? How does repurposing a sign change the idea and thing it is communicating? What happens when an artist transcribes their own handwriting into neon or lighted material?”
New York artist, Nari Ward’s 12-foot Loisaidas LiquorsouL, on loan from Lehmann Maupin, will tower over viewers into the venue’s high ceilings. The massive, repurposed fluorescent liquor store sign is altered slightly and explores the juxtaposition of alcohol’s role in bringing people together for celebration and damaging relationships by consumption abuse. Ward has shown work globally including participation in group shows at the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as a solo show at the Massachusetts MoCA and recent solo shows at SCAD Museum and LSU Museum of Art. Nari Ward’s solo exhibition at Perez Art Museum Miami is traveling to the Barnes Foundation in June of 2016.
Local artist James Akers has created a custom piece for Writing Lightly that incorporates a more modern language use, emojis. James explains, “Increasingly, digital images are supplanting writing and forming a language of icons or memes that convey feelings and ideas.” The bright smiley faces and images seem in stark contrast to the heavy alphanumeric text throughout the show but the communicative element remains.
WRITING LIGHTLY ARTISTS:
Alicia Eggert and Safwat Saleem
Rutter Family Art Foundation will present special programming in conjunction with the exhibition throughout the run of the show. Upcoming scheduled events include an artist talk with Alicia Eggert on Thursday, April 7th at 7pm, a poetry night, “Ekphrastic,” hosted by Jeff Hewitt, and an evening of neon bending demos during an outdoor block party in the back parking lot Saturday, April 30th during Virginia Arts Festival’s Fringe Fest weekend.
Kirkpatrick feels that Work | Release is an interesting venue for this exhibition because of its visual transparency with the surrounding streets and signage of downtown and its raw brick and concrete interior. Granby Street was a historically bright area, covered in neon, and Work | Release has easily become THE place to go for thoughtful nightlife in the area. Neon lights and illumination complement the environment.
“What I am most excited about is seeing how these works speak not only to viewers but also to each other in the space and how the exhibition as a whole creates a story about the language we use,” says Kirkpatrick.
On Saturday, April 2nd, Work | Release will hold their 1 year birthday celebration, NEON 90s. DJ Oh Boy!, BloodDiamond, up and coming producer, Gabe Niles and other performers who have been regular faces at Work | Release over the last year will play 90s inspired music throughout the night. A photo booth and special neon birthday surprises are in store.
The entire weekend is free and open to all ages before 9pm. Writing Lightly will kickoff the April 1st opening with an evening featuring DJ sets by Smeedz, Fayo and #WEGOLD. Guests can meet the curators and many of the artists. Friday and Saturday, Work | Release’s kitchen will be serving a full menu all night long. Enjoy a unique cocktail, a glass of wine or a Virginia craft beer and experience an evening of contemporary art and music surrounded by the glow of neon lights.