Discoveries: Let there be light at L. A.’s Museum of Neon Art

76
Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 2:45 AM

I stood a respectable four feet behind them, distant sufficient not to arrive off as stalkerish to these people of a certain age, but near sufficient to eavesdrop on their animated conversation.

Discoveries: Let there be light at L. A.’s Museum of Neon Art

Two people stood side-by-side in a museum gallery, necks craned upward at a 3-foot-high, neon-lit martini glass.

I stood a respectable four feet behind them, distant sufficient not to arrive off as stalkerish to these people of a certain age, but near sufficient to eavesdrop on their animated conversation. Shamefully, this is what I occasionally do when I’m on the clock and pounding the travel beat.

Man: “See that cocktail glass on top?”

Woman: “Oh, yes. Beautiful.”

Man: “Isn’t that marvelous? That reminds me when I was in San Francisco during the war. My buddies and I were on leave and we went into this alleyway and saw just a neon cocktail glass love that, but number name, or nothing, on the door. We opened the door. We looked in. We said, ‘Let’s obtain out of here.’”

Woman: “Really horrible news?”

Man: “Oh, you wouldn’t believe.”

It was at this point that I politely interposed myself. These visitors to the , the only conventional museum in the world “devoted exclusively to art in electric media,” really seemed taken with the array of neon signs flashing and glowing and occasionally emotional in the dimly lit space. In fact, it seemed nearly every piece on display, everything from salvaged roadside motel marquees to elaborate kinetic signs on service stations, led to passionate reveries of time past and memories rekindled.

“That’s totally what neon does to you,” said Carole Koenig of Los Angeles, roaming the galleries one recent Saturday with companion Allan Shatkin, he of the martini-glass anecdote. “It welcomes you in. It beckons. You can’t resist it. The designs are so amazing. Every single one of them has meaning attached to them.”

To prove her thesis, Koenig paused before several framed photographs of glowing motel signs and launched into a Proustian childhood memory from a ride from LA to Northern California, with a stop at a roadside motel somewhere close Bakersfield.

“We saw a neon sign with a chicken crossing the road, and we were so tired my father decided we'd to stop,” she said. “It was called the Chicken Inn. It was the biggest dump in the world. We sat on the bed, and the bed fell down. You turned on the faucet, and the faucet broke off. There was just a piece of cardboard separating my sister and my room and our parents’ room. That was it. I recollect my father saying, ‘Good night, kids. Near the cardboard now.’”

The following day, on the way out, my dad said to the clerk, ‘We’re paying now.’ The receptionist asks him, ‘How was your stay, sir?’ My father said, ‘This is the Chicken Inn, right? Well, we’re Chicken Out real fast.’”

To neon aficionados, the flashy signs and frequently elaborate figurative representations, such as the becapped female bather in mid-swan dive that graces the MONA roof, are more than just a trigger for baby-boomer nostalgia. No, they consider it a legitimate, if undervalued, art form. Its at the turn of the twentieth cent may have been first scientific – Hey, what'd happen if we ran this neon gas through a test tube and applied electricity? – then employed for commercial purposes to draw the eye of people cruising by in automobiles, but at some point beyond neon’s consumer heyday in the one thousand nine hundred sixty it gained an appreciation by pop-art aesthetes.

This resurgence of interest in neon signs by the art world comes at the same time that the old-school signs have largely been subsumed by large, square and bland LED signs and electric billboards that, to many, is an ocular assault more than an inviting blaze of eye-popping color.

Let’s face it, the expressed purpose of both neon signs of elderly and the current incarnation of lit advertising is to sell, sell, sell. But once the business attached to the neon image is long gone, you can appreciate the image exterior its original context. A LA business named “Clayton Plumbers” may be long gone, but people stop and gawk at the 30-foot sign in MONA’s courtyard. Electric blue drops lead down to a splat of white, and the words interior each of the drops proclaim:

The

Leak

Stops

Here!

To Eric Evavold, the museum’s vice president, neon is a valued form of folk art. It’s Americana writ large and lit brightly. He's not surprised by the renewed interest in neon. (In addition to the LA museum, which has been open since one thousand nine hundred eighty-one in various locations, there is a “boneyard” of erstwhile enormous casino and hotel neon signs preserved in a large lot in downtown Las Vegas. In Miami, an interactive, immersible “Motelscape” literally bathes visitors in neon. Jay-Z even name-checks NY neon artist in the video for “Onto the Next One.” )

“It’s one of the cultural threads that makes up the American experience,” he said. “It pulls us together. It’s how we lit and our highways. ‘EAT!’ You'd that one word flashing. Neon was a way to obtain people out.

“People get it personally. For me, it’s love that. My father used to drive me around town. He owned a business at the produce mart (in downtown L. A.) Just seeing this lore and this quality at night affected me. When the Sunday finally set, pop, there was that color lighting up the night sky. It didn’t seem so dark anymore.”

Los Angeles, known for its glitz, seems a logical choice for a museum committed to neon. Evavold said some ponder why Times Square in NY or the Las Vegas strip didn’t obtain the nod. His reply is simple. The first neon sign in the United States illuminated a Packard car dealership in downtown L. A. in one thousand nine hundred twenty-third. It was a ordinary design, the word Packard in cursive script, but it caused a sensation.

“The (Packard) owner, , had gone to a fashion indicate in Paris where neon was displayed and brought it here,” Evavold said. “A lot of people have the misconception that neon started on Broadway in NY City. It actually started right off Broadway in L. A.”

Appreciators of neon art can be serious about the form – works by Flavin and others sell for major coin, high six figures – but many also will admit their interest runs toward nostalgia and a certain kitsch value.

“There’s a retro classy element to it, I think,” said Koenig, the “Chicken Inn” visitor. “It decorates the night sky, when you think about it. Recollect driving into Vegas at night? There’s nothing, nothing, and then there’s that glow that nearly makes it seem love you’ve arrived on Mars.

“It’s the animation factor, too. These things most frequently flash and go off and move. It’s so much more individual. Think about it. You’ve got letters and a specific message. It’s not love the illuminated billboards we've now. … It doesn’t hit you over the head with overt selling love today’s billboards. I mean, when you look a neon cocktail glass, you’ve got to go in and have a cocktail, number matter what. You have to.”

“Except,” her companion Shatkin interjected, “when there’s number title on it and it’s in an alley.”

two hundred sixteen S Brand Blvd., Glendale

Noon to seven p. m Fridays and Saturdays; noon to five p. m. Sundays

$8 general, $5 students and seniors, free for ages twelve and under

READ ALSO
Former Track Runners Create Incredible Photo Shoot to Announce Baby

Former Track Runners Create Incredible Photo Shoot to Announce Baby

Kristina and Sam Sesay, who have been married for three years, are expecting their first baby this summer. To tell their family and friends, their photographer Adedayo Kosoko posted a series of incredible photos on Facebook of the two having fun on the track at H.

74
Stripling'south father thanks Dave Roberts for concern about son

Stripling'south father thanks Dave Roberts for concern about son

Not that Roberts needed any reassurance about his decision some twelve hours later. He pulled Stripling with a no-hitter in progress during the eighth inning of his major league debut after the right-hander's one-hundredth pitch — a "no-brainer"...

53
Live coverage: Updates from Kings’ residence finale against Thunder

Live coverage: Updates from Kings’ residence finale against Thunder

Live coverage will be provided by The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones and other sources courtside. Live coverage begins at 6:30 p. m. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.

70
Republic FC at Vancouver match is battle of unbeatens

Republic FC at Vancouver match is battle of unbeatens

m. Sun at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC two. Republic FC opened the season with a 1-0 win at the Seattle Sounders FC two on March twenty-five, then beat AZ United SC 1-0 April two at Sacramento’s Bonney Field.

80