Jan 222011

Great pictures of neon at its best! Neon and Route 66 just go together!!

By LeTania Kirkland
A new outdoor exhibit featuring neon art of the Route 66 era seeks to portray the medium and its creations as indispensable to the artistic heritage and landscape of Los Angeles.

The public exhibit, “On Route 66, Lights,” combines four vintage neon art pieces from the collection of The Museum of Neon Art, as well as a suggested route and 21-page color roadmap of still existent neon signs.

MONA and the city of West Hollywood joined forces to celebrate the city’s 25th anniversary with a self-guided tour of neon art along Santa Monica Blvd (which was once a portion of Route 66) and the Sunset strip.

“As time moves forward into the future and we look back at these things, they really are folk art objects,” said Kim Koga, MONA’s downtown director.

A neon exhibit seemed a fitting way to honor “The Mother Road” and the city it helped create. After all, the first neon sign — for a Packard car dealership — was displayed in Los Angeles. And Route 66 — the quintessential California thoroughfare — became a hot bed of neon signage shortly thereafter.

Neon thrived on the billboards that flanked Route 66 as it did along LA’s sidestreets, fed by LA’s booming car culture, and has become an indispensable aspect of the history and aesthetic of each.

One sign, a 17-foot Winchell’s Donut — originally displayed in Plummer Park — resided on Route 66 in Upland. It was donated to MONA by the Barstow Route 66 “Mother Road” Museum.

The project was partly conceived of as a way to display some of the many pieces of vintage neon, much of which had been sitting in storage since MONA’s relocation to its new, smaller home downtown on 4th Street.

Koga put out the word around town that MONA had pieces of art waiting to be seen. It was then that West Hollywood cultural affairs administrator Andrew Campbell approached Koga with the On Route 66 proposal.

“I don’t think a lot of people would think about putting neon in their main art median,” said Campbell. Campbell is pleased that the “creative city” is celebrating a medium often seen as purely commercial.

“I think it’s a very fun thing to see that these people who may not have considered themselves artists we look at as artists today.”

“On Route 66” is a part of West Hollywood’s “Art on the Outside” program, which utilizes the city’s prominent road medians to display sculpture.

Click HERE to see the full video and many other neon signs.

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