2002-04-06 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio by Susan Hartenstein

Rockaway Artists Alliance

Two of the most interesting pieces of artwork in the "Palindrome 2002" exhibition at Fort Tilden were on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. for the 35th annual Folklife and Cultural Festival. The two pieces are a neon accented Deco-age mirror and an infinity cube that creates the optical illusion that the neon lighted tube inside is reflected into infinity. These pieces were fabricated by artisans R.C. and Theresa Ingui, a husband and wife team that owns and operates Artistic Neon Inc. in Ridgewood, Queens. The Inguis have been designing and fabricating neon signs, lighting, sculpture and neon art objects for 17 years. The glass bending tradition was begun in the Ingui family 50 years ago by Robert’s father, Gasper. Gasper Ingui is considered one of the "Renaissance Men" of Neon. A pioneer in his field, he created works of functional neon art for the home and business using cutting-edge concepts. These included three-dimensional neon sculptures, neon furniture and the use of "cool" lighting. In the 1970’s Ingui started Artistic Neon Inc., fabricated signs for some of the city’s most popular discos and taught the craft of neon at the Experimental Glass Workshop. This latter accomplishment kept what was then a dying art form alive. One of those to whom Gasper handed down the tradition is his son Robert (R.C.)

All the glass in the neon mirror, "Glass Trilogy 1999," is vintage. Indeed, the piece is a tribute to retro and tradition. The neon is hand-coated, a process that has been obsolete for 60 years. Sea Glass is formed over decades by the action of the ocean on ordinary glass containers that had been discarded in the water and then washed up on shore. The sea glass in Glass Trilogy is from Rockaway. The mirror is from Ingui’s grandmother’s attic. The turquoise neon around the perimeter of the piece is reminiscent of the deco age in which it was created and is complimentary to the hues of the sea glass. Infinity cubes are optical illusions created by using two-way mirrors, all facing each other. The imported Italian glass in "Abstract Infinity" is the most difficult with which to work. Ingui employed glass bending and blowing in this project to show the diversity of the art form. Glass tubing comes straight. Hot molten tubes must be bent into the desired shape. Then the tube is sealed and back-filled with either neon gas (red) or argon gas (blue). Colors may also be achieved by first having a colored florescent powder in the tube, using different colored glass tubing or by a combination of the three.

Check out these and other fascinating and fun pieces of art (including mirrored phases of the moon, seascapes, pottery and poetry) at RAA’s open exhibition, "Palindrome 2002" at Fort Tilden, sTudio 6, Saturdays 12-5 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m. Admission is free. The exhibit runs through April 14.

The next RAA general meeting is Monday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. in building T-149, Fort Tilden. All are welcome. Guest speaker is David Williams, a very talented photographer who specializes in the field of black and white printing. Williams will show his work and discuss his approach to photography, his views on light and tones and why he prints the way he does. Self-taught, Williams is a photography instructor at Brooklyn College. He states, "I share the view Paul Strand had when he said a fine photograph could share a wall with a Rembrandt. Mediocrity has nothing to do with the craft. The artist must have a passion for the work and have something to say photographically. I want the observer of my work to see common subjects in a way that elicits a second look. Tones and values will draw the attention of even the casual observer." Williams works with large and medium format cameras. His camera of choice is a large format 8x10 wooden camera he built himself. He prints on a 100% bromide paper that displays characteristics of bromide papers of the past, including deep rich maximum blacks. Those from whom Williams learned by observation, such as Paul Strand and Eugene Smith, used pure bromide papers. Come to RAA this Monday and learn more about the art and craft of David Williams.

The opening reception for "Remembering" is being given Sunday, April 7 from 1-4 p.m. at sTudio 7 Gallery, Fort Tilden. The exhibit features art of various media dedicated to remembering our losses of the recent past and reflecting on our future.

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