Partners in both art and life, Tim Noble and Sue Webster have developed a provocative visual language that speaks to the very nature of consumer culture. The British duo joined forces while students at Nottingham Trent University in the late 1980s, and rose to prominence in the mid 1990s, a time when other super-star YBA artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were rocketed into the headlines.
During this fin de siècle, contemporary art had become inextricably linked to the effects of mass media and the super-sonic hype of a consumer driven society. In a world dominated by celebrity, big business, big brands and bling, Noble & Webster created their own cult following. As testament to the duo's success and place in art history, earlier in 2008 they created a larger than life outdoor fountain for New York's landmark Rockefeller Center. Installed on Rockefeller Center's Plaza at the cross-roads of the hustle and bustle of New York City, Electric Fountain, with its sparkling neon light bathing its environs, was placed in the same central Manhattan location that has recently been graced by the works of other celebrity artists' works including Jeff Koons' Puppy and Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror.
Noble & Webster's work incorporates a variety of media, but they are most known for their pulsating and vibrant light sculptures. The present work is a captivating example of this genre of their oeuvre. Inspired by the glam and glitz of casino kitsch in Las Vegas, as well as the small sea-side British counterpart, Blackpool, Happy simultaneously celebrates and spoofs familiar emblems of the snap, crackle and pop of mass culture and today's urban lanscape. Happy employs a myriad of colourful bulbs assembled in an elaborate sequence of light, which in effect transform their sculpture into a magnetic and interactive work that fully engages the viewer.
Unlike their minimalist predecessors, Dan Flavin and James Turrell who also produced light-based sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s, Noble & Webster turn the former's approach on its head and utilize the same vibrant medium in a new and exciting way reflecting the sentiments of the times. With its ironic undertones and alluring iridescence, Happy celebrates Noble & Webster's artistic endeavors. Drawing on the intoxicating vocabulary of the advertising and entertainment industries, the simplicity of their message in their jolly Happy harkens to the sensationalism ever present in today's consumer driven culture. Despite their sources, Noble & Webster successfully combine the tackiness and vulgarity of society and through their hypnotic choice of medium, challenge accepted ideas of beauty while emphasizing the surprising similarity between what is traditionally regarded as low and high brow culture.