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The bright vernacular of Richard Hooker’s ‘Pregnant Neon’

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All Right, Good Night,” one of the works in Richard Hooker’s Pregnant Neon.

In Pregnant Neon: A Tale of Conspicuous Devotion, artist Richard Hooker recreates today’s digitally based vernacular in neon signage.

Cruising exchanges lifted from texting or dating apps—“FWB/looking” and “SUP/into?”—glow red on the wall in simple, unadorned letters, much like a vacancy sign on a lone motel.

They meld accordingly with statements from the past, as in “Sin Bravely,” playing off Martin Luther’s “sin boldy,” and “Fear & Desire,” referencing mythologist Joseph Campbell. Or they mirror the “broadcasting prowess” of the natural world in “Texting With Antlers,” which combines neon and taxidermy.

Yet despite the humor and poignancy in glowing font, Hooker’s phrases offer a surprisingly haunting quietude not expected of the content or medium. Perhaps it’s the influence of “All Right, Good Night,” which lingers ghostlike in the 10-piece exhibit. The final recorded words of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 pilot—before the Boeing 777 disappeared with 239 passengers—loom in the void, much like the mystery that for weeks blared from television and computer screens during the as-yet-unsuccessful search.

‘Pregnant Neon’

“I was so taken by the power of the message,” Hooker says. “It seemed like one of the great mythic farewells. So heartbreaking. Almost Shakespearean.”

A similarly somber tone, though not as devastating, exists in a display of dinner plates on which Hooker’s friends noted their regrets (one to a plate). The plates were smashed, then repaired with glue, serving as a reminder that regret is so difficult to shed. From the wistful and somewhat humorous—“I regret not pursuing a surfing career!”—to the eloquently defiant—“Non, je ne regrette, rien” (“No, I regret nothing”)—the statement/confessions frame the neon words “Archeology of Regret.”

In another work, a neonified Scarlet Letter is placed atop the words “moral trespass,” creating an ambiguity: Is it amoral trespass or a moral trespass?

With Pregnant Neon, Hooker mixes the past, present and literary with the political and pop in the medium that transformed our 19th-century cities—only this time, the neon is used for a contemplative exploration rather than commercial design.

Pregnant Neon: A Tale of Conspicuous Devotion Through July 12, Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sahara West Library, 9600 W. Sahara Ave., 702 507-3630.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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