There was once a time when neon lights shone from every street corner in Soho, glimmering silhouettes promising ‘Girls! Girls! Girls!’ and illicit pleasure dens. It was Chris Bracey - the ‘Godfather of Neon’, who lit up these hedonistic alleyways with his sci-fi signage, transforming his father’s fairground novelties into iconic artworks. Bracey’s forty-year career saw work adorn the pages of Vogue and the sets of Stanley Kubrick; his death in 2014 was mourned by artists, craftsmen, and generations of the misfit Soho subculture he personified.
Although many still make the pilgrimage to Walthamstow to visit Bracey’s workshop - God’s Own Junkyard, the work of ‘The Neon Man’ is becoming less and less evident at street level. The legendary venues of the 70s and 80s are forced into closure one by one, the signs are taken down and contemporary Soho is an all-together cleaner more family friendly environment.
Lights of Soho is London’s leading light-art gallery, a cultural hub for Soho’s creative community. Now in its third year, the venue offers an exhibition space with a calendar of events championing neon artists and the history of an aesthetic that is synonymous with Soho. In celebration of International Women’s Day, Women in Neon brings Lights of Soho to Fenwick of Bond Street, illuminating the store with bespoke window displays and a pop-up exhibition. The partnership exhibits the work of five female neon artists, selected by Lights of Soho’s Exhibitions Producer and Curator Alexa Pearson.
Celebrating both new and established artists hailing from a variety of different disciplines, the resulting display is remarkably cohesive. Of the showcased artists, Linda Bracey is perhaps the most well-known as creative director of her late husband Christ Bracey’s workshop, God’s Own Junkyard. Alongside Bracey, Lauren Baker, Rebecca Mason, Diana Chire, and Federica Marangoni explore themes ranging from multiple dimensions to female identity. Visual puns and bold statements mirror the garish nature of the medium and Marangoni’s defiant message ‘Art Has No Sex’ shines directly onto the high-street.
Although the Women in Neon installation does not quite match the fantastically kitsch levels of the Selfridges window display created by Chris Bracey and David LaChapelle in 2005 (titled Vegas Supernova), it is encouraging to see that Bracey’s legacy lives on, communicating a narrative that is rapidly being erased from the streets of present-day Soho.
Written by Camron Intern Elizabeth Mahoney.
@fenwickbondst #WomenInNeon #FenwickXLightsOfSoho