May 29, 2017

Photo Essay: Let There Be Neon

I know it's not cool to love places like Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard, and Piccadilly Circus... but I just do.

Mind you, I don't love the crowds, or the traffic, or the noise, but I do love the spectacle.

And a lot of that has to do with neon signs.

Despite Times Square, I actually don't associate New York City with much neon. I even told a neon artist friend of mine that I thought he'd do much better in LA than in NYC, which surprised him.

But maybe I just never took the time to dig up the places where the art of neon is alive and well in New York City.

Until now.

For example, the neon sign shop Let There Be Neon was founded all the way back in 1972 by multimedia artist Rudi Stern (a.k.a. "The Godfather of Neon"), despite the fact that the art of neon had already fallen out of favor by that time.

Rudi—who wrote the Let There Be Neon book in 1979—ran his shop until 1991, when he sold it to his former employee, Jeff Friedman.

Forty-five years later, the sign shop has managed to stay relevant—if not a bit under-the-radar.

But contemporary clients like WeWork, JetBlue, and Kiehl's have found the studio and commissioned illuminated works that range from their logos to all kinds of images and messages.

The front of the studio acts as a kind of gallery / showroom combo where you can admire works in progress...

...custom, handmade pieces that are ready to be shipped out...

...three-dimensional sculptures of bent glass...

...and vintage mixed with modern.

In New York, of course, we associate neon not only with the Times Square McDonald's, XXX theaters, casinos, and diners, but also with pizza.

Maybe New York is just so bright and shiny and loud and garish that I never noticed how much neon I was actually seeing while I lived there.

Some businesses complain that neon signs are too expensive to fabricate, maintain, and even keep lit—though many neon experts would disagree.

So, for those businesses (or, I suppose, TV and film productions) that would like to use neon without the commitment of actually owning it or being responsible for it long-term, Let There Be Neon rents a garden variety of generic signs for bars, jazz clubs, liquor stores, billiards clubs, lounges...

...and even doctors' offices.

Let There Be Neon was one of the first neon studios to bring neon ownership to the masses—and to put neon into people's homes, museums, and art galleries.

Pretty much anything can be neonified.

And that may be the reason why neon may never actually die.

I mean, who doesn't want to see their name in lights?

And if you have something to tell the world, why not say it in neon?

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Night of the Living Neon
Photo Essay: Behold, the Museum of Neon Art
Photo Essay: Hats Off to the Museum of Neon Art

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