Published Friday, April 11th, 2014 in The Washington Post print edition and online at www.washingtonpost.com
By: Mark Jenkins, Freelance Writer
Craig A. Kraft, Ground Zero I, 2013, Found graffiti, neon, 2’ x 3’ x 3.5”
Artists have used neon in many ways, but it and other glowing gases — more than just neon is required to produce various colors — are most associated with signs. D.C. neon artist Craig Kraft has returned to that tradition, but with light works based on jottings rather than elegant logos. Three of Kraft's "Unintentional Drawings," based on his own doodles, are included in "Markings," at VisArts's Gibbs Street Gallery in Rockville. But most of the pieces derive from someone else's scrawls. Or rather, a whole bunch of other people's, since the pieces riff on years of graffiti at Ground Zero Blues Club, a joint in the Mississippi region that gave the Delta blues its name.
Kraft photographed the intentionally shabby club's interior and mounted the images on wood. He then fashioned neon tubes in the form of shapes seen in the photos, usually but not always spotlighting words. For one piece, the artist outlined a rip in a seat cover; in another, a sketch of a lizard.
The tubes burn white, but are partially covered in scratched black paint, so they appear as ragged as the surfaces of the graffiti-covered club. The effect is subtle, designed to complement rather than upstage the photographs. Kraft is writing with light, but only to underscore what others scribbled before him.
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