agent of chaos presents its first guest artist - Jeff Chipls & his found neon art

Art Matters
With Dan Tranberg

Arts Collinwood pairs inventive artists in Razzle-Dazzle Friday, October 19, 2007
Dan Tranberg
Special to The Plain Dealer

Considering the ever-increasing amount of time people spend staring at glowing computer monitors, television screens and the other illuminated displays on everything from billboards to cell phones to GPS systems, it's a wonder that more visual artists aren't using optically arresting materials.

But many artists are capitalizing on the allure that today's technologies offer. Cleveland artist Jeffry Chiplis, for instance, is well known for his use of recycled neon signs, which he reconfigures to form graffiti-like sculptures that never fail to capture attention.

In the two-person exhibition "Razzle-Dazzle," on view through Saturday at the Arts Collinwood Gallery, 15605 Waterloo Road in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, Chiplis is paired with local artist Jacob Wesley Lang, whose work is inspired in part by an eye-popping type of camouflage that was used on ships during World War I.

Known as "Razzle-Dazzle," this particular variety of camouflage was intended not to hide the ships on which it was painted, but rather, to disrupt the technology behind the naval artillery of the day. The pattern consisted of complex geometric shapes, which were often painted in jarring, complementary colors.

Along with this loaded reference, Lang uses a variety of recent technologies in his work, including digital photography, digital printmaking and laser cutting.

A more primitive but no less inventive technique he uses involves melting frozen cubes of watercolor paint directly on paper.

Though the variety of forms and techniques in his work is confusing at first glance, Lang's reference to an antiquated form of camouflage makes sense in light of his diverse use of technological processes. He seems on a quest of sorts to explore the potential of certain systems to produce interesting yet ambiguous results.

"My ambition is to create objects that have as many possible interpretations as there are potential observers," he wrote in a statement about his work.

Lang's agenda becomes clearer through the work of Chiplis, whose use of neon takes a system of signage expressly designed to catch the eye and scrambles it, rearranging letters and symbols that once served essentially as advertising.

In doing so, he maintains the essence of neon as a visually compelling material, charged with the potential to be read literally.

But his neon reconfigurations often offer a kind of Dadaist twist, deliberately forming abstract signs with no singular interpretation.

Like Lang, Chiplis is playing with our desire to put pieces together, to de-scramble messages and arrive at a sense of meaning, however subjective it may be.

Sensibly adding to the exhibition's general theme of open-ended interpretations, tonight's closing reception will include readings by Dada-influenced poets Steven B. Smith and Kathy Ireland Smith, who have been traveling the world for more than a year and have temporarily returned to Cleveland.

Considering all of the visual and intellectual jostling at play here, the combination of Chiplis, Lang and the Smiths couldn't be more perfect.

Call 216-692-9500 or go to

coming very soon - Chiplis and Smith photographs of his pieces in this show

Tranberg is an artist and writer living in Cleveland. Art Matters is a column that runs weekly in Friday! covering the area art scene. To be considered for publication, items about shows or openings must be received three weeks in advance. Mail to Plain Dealer Art Critic, 1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114. Fax 216-999-6269.

To reach Dan Tranberg:    © 2007 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

e-mail jeff at jeffrychiplis @-sign sbcglobal dot net

webwork by smith

chiplis home page
agent of chaos
what's new

site map