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Stephen Antonakos, Walk-On Neon (detail), 1968, glass, metal, neon, 10 x 9 x 12'.

Toward the end of the 1960s, I was very interested in making large neon works that defined or redefined space. In 1968 I made Red Neon from Wall to Wall, a two-foot-high by twofoot-high deep bar of red neon that horizontally spanned the Fischbach Gallery’s twenty-foot-long space at waist height. You could enter the room from the west doorway or the north door, but you could not cross over. The colored light was tremendous. It held us in its intensity, as if the present moment were being extended. Later that year, I did the Walk-On Neon, which consisted of a nine-by-twelve-foot glass floor with straight and curved horizontal neon lines underneath and tall bands shooting up through the center of the room. This was the last work I made that involved the neons going on and off in timed patterns.


When the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Art and Technology” project came along, it sounded like a terrific opportunity for me to realize a work that I couldn’t fabricate myself. I had an idea of a huge mass of straight, vertical, four-foot red neon tubes filling an entire ceiling and the whole space underneath a transparent floor–a complete environment. The problem was that I envisioned each of the innumerable neons as just a single straight line, whereas neon tubes have to double back on themselves. So I asked the A&T organizers if they would find a company that could do this. In the end, they could not. But it was a good question nevertheless. Ultimately, the answer I found was not the one I had been looking for but something more important: My environmental ideas led directly to the Rooms, Meditation Spaces, and Chapels that followed-from early ‘70’s onward-in which the view is within the space of the art.