Photo by Anthony Mair

Solar-Powered Neon Will Light Up Felipe Pantone’s Life Is Beautiful Mural

The artist lineup for last year’s Life Is Beautiful festival included Felipe Pantone, who created his first 3D public mural, a project that transformed the white exterior of a Downtown building into a dynamic, highly charged and visually kinetic, data-driven composition. Across its black-and-white geometric op-art–style shapes blasts a color-rich, three-dimensional bolt of current.

The mural belongs to a long line of street and studio works created by Pantone, an artist based in Valencia, Spain, whose work loudly and eloquently speaks to digital technology, its coding and visual optics that are dominating our collective psyches. Those who mistake his work as “futuristic” miss his point: this is the wildly unchartered present, 21st-century living. A simple swipe of Instagram blurs together divergent visual stimuli, absorbed in motion by the user, to which Pantone asks: How can a still artwork compete against that?

And at this year’s festival, Pantone’s mural gets an addition, speaking directly to the retro language of Las Vegas: Life Is Beautiful teamed up with Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) and Bombard Renewable Energy—which are donating the neon and solar work, respectively—to present a neon component to the mural on Stewart Avenue.

YESCO will be installing 267 linear feet of neon to the work, all of which will be solar-powered.

“It will take two to three weeks to blow all of the glass, [then] two to three days to install,” says Richard Purvis, the YESCO project director overseeing the Pantone piece and working directly with the Life Is Beautiful team.

With the bolt of current outlined in blue, the black-and-white optics on the top left in yellow and white and the circuitry-style diagram on the upper right in yellow and pink, the work will present itself differently at night, using elements of the original work but in a more minimal composition.

“It’s going to bring street art to life at night,” Purvis says. “It’s exciting to be involved. Neon is a retro look, a staple to Las Vegas and part of our culture and history.” This project, he says, unites Downtown’s street art with the neon narrative of Las Vegas.

Though solar-powered artwork, installations, sculptures and murals have grown in numbers internationally, applying solar-powered neon into an already established mural is a new step for Las Vegas and the first of its kind for Life is Beautiful.

“It’s such a cool idea and it brings into the fold renewable [energy],” says Deidre Radford, project manager for Bombard. She says that 100 percent of the neon will be offset by solar power. Last year Bombard had a solar trailer at the festival and was intrigued as soon as its team reached out.

Bombard is responsible for the solar-powered Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, as well as the solar trees and roof of Las Vegas’ City Hall building. A solar power system like the Pantone piece, in which solar panels produce power with the excess kilowatt hours going back into the utilities’ power grid for credit, is usually valued between $10,000 and $12,000.

“We like to support community and the arts,” Radford says. Pantone, an artist whose installations, studio works and murals are exhibited throughout the world, was born in Argentina, moved with his family to Spain at age 10, took up graffiti at age 12 and eventually moved into fine art, with each discipline influencing the other.

Purvis says Pantone’s mural in neon is a “great project for the city.” While neon is its own art form that carries the artist’s feel and touch and years of experience, neon is generally advertising. With this project, says Purvis, it truly is integrating neon into art.

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