66 signs of neon

Noah Purifoy American
Judson Powell American

Not on view

"66 Signs of Neon exists on several levels as an art exhibition dominated by assemblages of artifacts of the Watts riots (August 1965); as a one-to-one format of communication between individuals who otherwise would not or could not communicate; as an evolving system of philosophy. It began as an expression of the necessity for art education, affirming the importance of this avenue of self-expression to individuals in the community of Watts. Noah Purifoy and Judson Powell began with six assemblages created from the lead drippings of melted neon signs, artifacts of the riots. As their work continued they recruited six other professionals skilled in the plastic and graphic arts. In concert, the group set out to create 66 separate works of art for the festival, in the incredibly brief period of 30 days. They labored literally night and day, groping through “the glittering, twisted, grotesquely formed materials, each interpreting in his own way the August happening”. …the assemblage of junk illustrated for the artists the imposition of order on disorder, the creation of beauty from ugliness. Its analog was the essence of communication…The reason for being in our universe is to establish communication with others, one to one. And communication is not possible without the establishment of equality, one to one. The exhibition traveled domestically and internationally between 1966 and 1971." — text from catalog, via Noah Purifoy Foundation web site

"A landmark collaborative multi-artist found-object sculptural project, organized by Noah Purifoy and Judson Powell during the month following the Watts riots of 1965. [A traveling exhibition on the road from 1966-71 to Berkeley and eight other California state universities, Kalamazoo Institute of Art and Huntington Gallery, Knoxville, KY, as well as numerous other national venues and abroad.] As Purifoy wrote in the catalogue: "We wish to establish that there must be more to art than the creative act, more than the sensation of beauty, ugliness, color, form, light, sound, darkness, intrigue, wonderment, uncanniness, bitter, sweet, black, white, life and death. There must be therein a ME and a YOU, who is affected permanently. Art of itself is of little or no value if in its relatedness it does not effect change. We do not mean change in the physical appearance of things, but a change in the behavior of human beings." According to Paul Von Blum, of the 66 mixed-media pieces in the exhibition, "most found no permanent home and the materials returned to the junk heaps from which they originally came." -- summary from African American Visual Artists Database

Catalog of an exhibition entitled 66 signs of neon.

Text by Noah Purifoy as told to Ted Michel.

66 signs of neon, Noah Purifoy (American, 1917–2004)

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