Denver-based neon artist Scott Young is unapologetic. Not only does that inform the subject matter of his work — he never shies away from using the word “fuck” for instance — it’s also symbolic of the materials he chooses to work with. Neon isn’t light-hearted, even when it’s used for advertising, and Young embraces that at every opportunity. His newest body of work, Light Up My Life, will take over a 3,400 square-feet gallery space at Dairy Block, leaving viewers with “both a satisfying grin and a first-degree burn,” as the artist explained.
This new solo exhibition isn’t separate from Young’s previous work, although it has changed directions. His rise to prominence in Denver started at RULE Gallery in 2016 with the exhibition Wish You Were Here. An enormous neon sign perched atop the small gallery reading intermittently “wish you were here” and “wish you were her.” That sign ended up on top of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) after the RULE show and now sits atop the garden bar at The Ramble Hotel in RiNo. The following year, Young took over K Contemporary (as the first show at that gallery) with Gas Light Love Bomb. Both of those exhibitions took the viewer on a love story that was dark and foreboding — contradicted by the warm and inviting glow of the neon (and other gases) Young works with.
The third and final chapter of that saga ended earlier this year with Love Bully in B-Spot Gallery in RiNo. A one-night-stand of a show, the expansive display of Young’s work felt like the moment you stop crying after a breakup and realize the world has continued on without you. At the time, Young explained that “the show is a cathartic departure from a lot of the work.”
Light Up My Life is not coming from the same person that created the 2016 Wish You Were Here exhibition. Young no longer feels the need to sulk in the loss of love or the squandering of romantic fairytales. Instead, Light Up My Life is a dynamic expression of passion, a “red-hot scream on the sidewalk.” Where previous exhibitions primarily used the calm colors of pink, blue and white, this one will feature harsher tones like crimson reds and electric purples.
Unlike other contemporary neon artists who are more like designers, sending their sketches away to neon-specialized fabricators, Young crafts everything himself in a small studio. This gives his work a unique gestural quality, and it allows him freedom with glass and gas that rivals a paintbrush. “Neon is the perfect medium for expressing the vernacular of emotion and human connection,” said Young. “It possesses its own life and warmth, as intangible as love and heartbreak, fragile in its own existence, yet full of vibrancy and passion, all adding up to the characteristics of how we love and inevitably unlove.”
Life Up My Life opens with a Grand Opening Celebration on Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m., where amidst Young’s new work, visitors can also indulge on food and drink from BRUTø, Foraged and Blanchard Family Wines, as well as other events by fellow Denver creatives, musicians and thinkers.
The exhibition will remain open until November 16 ad is located at 1821 Blake Street.