Solid, liquid, gas, plasma. Plasma is the high-energy, cloudlike fourth state of matter. It is abundantly found in the universe in suns and stars, but occurs on earth only in lightning and the aurora borealis — and, of course, plasma TVs, and now plasma art: airtight glass sculptures outfitted with high-voltage transformers that increase the electricity's frequency high enough to ionize and energize the neon and xenon. If you've ever watched the silky, liquid effects of a low-temperature orange-pink-blue flame in a guttering fire, the hypnotic, organic ebbing and flowing of plasma incandescence may appear similar to you.
Seven artists who work with plasma are showing their light sculpture at the Float Center. Neon and glass expert Bill Concannon of Crockett is showing a "Neon Coke Bottle" standing beneath an archway of colored bottle necks, everything radiant. Kinetic and neon sculptor Ken Herrick shows a work resembling a black clock dial with glowing linear elements spiraling out from the center — astronomy, perhaps, as seen by Muybridge and Flavin. San Francisco sculptor and woodworker David Hollister makes perverse conceptual art in "Persephone," hiding his plasma within a long sealed gray box so that turning the piece on makes no visible difference whatever, a wry take on Greek mythology's nymph trapped in the underworld half the year. Ed Kirshner shows "Blue Lightning Party," a model car boasting eight glass cylinders firing plasma, wheels with plasma rims, and plasma klaxons or horns; the intense red glass of his "Plasma Cherry" tempts the viewer even as the lightning discharges inside give pause. Sculptor Norman Moore explores his interest in myth and metaphor with an architectural structure entitled "Dream" that simultaneously suggests hourglass, goldfish bowl, crystal ball, emperor's orb, and alchemist's alembic. Co-curator Michael Pargett's "Carry-on" is a waffle-foam-padded aluminum briefcase housing a glass tube or bat filled with gas — an excellent solution to the portability/protection problem. Allison F. Walton, curator and gallery co-owner, is showing "Plasma Xenon Head," a blue glass robot's head that will eventually be completed with a body. Four lyrical abstract paintings by Sally Rodriguez complete the show.
A closing party and free plasma educational presentation by Ed Kirshner will take place January 10, 6-9 p.m. Plasma Nation runs through January 10 at the Float Center (1091 Calcot Pl., #116 Oakland). TheFloatCenter.com
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