I’m interested in the fine line between my intentions and the perceptions of others; that moment when someone encounters something and realizes that there is more to it than meets the eye.
Gagosian is pleased to present Neon Ark, an exhibition of new neon works by Douglas Gordon that incorporates a live workshop in which artisans will fabricate works in situ that will then be installed in the gallery. During certain hours the space will be closed while activity in the workshop is visible through the street-facing window.
In his films, projections, installations, photographs, performances, and works in other mediums, Gordon investigates collective memory and our sense of psychological security through extreme distortions of time and space, often using his own work and that of other artists and filmmakers as raw material. He has made text-based works since the 1990s; most of these have taken the form of vinyl transfers applied to walls, but a few—the first being Empire, installed in 1998 in an alleyway outside a Glasgow pub—have employed neon light.
Neon Ark, Gordon’s first gallery exhibition devoted entirely to text works in neon, acknowledges the medium’s change in status from a common platform for commercial signage toward a rarified technology superseded by digital display. The on-site workshop highlights the spectacle of this elemental production process—incongruous in its Mayfair location—in which a flame is used to bend fine glass tubes before the air inside is evacuated (a process called “bombarding”) and noble gases, whose molecules emit light when activated by electric currents, are added.
The verbal content of Gordon’s texts—gnomic, sometimes aphoristic fragments—resonates with the alchemical nature of neon and its place in the history of modernism; the medium has a long and distinguished artistic heritage, having been used by numerous artists, including Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, and Joseph Kosuth. The title of the exhibition, perhaps an allusion to the rescuing of neon from cultural oblivion, or to the visible discharge of an electric arc, also hints at the paired “two-by-two” nature of the works’ wording. Each neon has a “partner”—these other halves are not on view in the exhibition—that completes a well-known line from a film or a lyric from a popular song. A new winter coat for the wife, for example, refers to a line from the Elvis Costello song “Shipbuilding,” while Mighty real borrows from Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”
The gallery will be closed from 10am to 2pm on November 23–26 and 29–30, and December 1–3, during which times the workshop will be active and visible from the street. On these dates, the gallery will reopen from 2 to 6pm, once the neons produced during these sessions have been hung and illuminated. As daylight fades, the texts in Neon Ark will remain on view through the gallery’s window throughout the hours of darkness.
Additionally, from December 6 to 31, 2022, on the large screen in Piccadilly Circus, the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) will present a work by Gordon that responds to Soho’s neon heritage.
17–19 Davies Street
London W1K 3DE
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10–6
Katrina Brown discusses the importance of Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and some of the films that followed, touching on threads that run throughout the artist’s career.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Douglas Gordon: I had nowhere to go
Featuring an extensive interview with Douglas Gordon on the process of making his 2016 film I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person, this video, produced by Berlin Art Link, includes clips of Jonas Mekas and revealing anecdotes about the creation of the film.
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember’s installation As close as you can for as long as it lasts, presented during Elevation 1049: Avalanche in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Making Eyes: Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon and Rufus Wainwright collaborated to produce afflictive, slow-motion projections to accompany Wainwright’s performances during his 2010 All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu tour.
if when why what
December 8–31, 2022, 8:22pm daily
Piccadilly Lights, London
Beginning Thursday, December 8, Douglas Gordon will take over the Piccadilly Lights advertising screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus, as well as a global network of screens in cities including Berlin, Melbourne, Milan, New York, and Seoul, nightly for three minutes at 20:22 (8:22pm) local time throughout December, with his new film, if when why what (2018–22). The never-before-seen work examines the history of the surrounding area, in particular Soho’s relationship with the erotic entertainment industry, focusing on the neighborhood’s iconic neon signage. The project is presented by the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) in conjunction with the exhibition Douglas Gordon: Neon Ark at Gagosian, Davies Street, London, and will also be viewable online on the CIRCA website.
Rendering of Douglas Gordon’s if when why what (2018–22) on Piccadilly Lights, London
Extended through February 3, 2018
November 14, 2017–February 3, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person
October 3–7, 2017
Britannia Street, London