LAST MONTH I WROTE about two projects by New Yorkers that chronicle disappearing signs of the city. Frank Jump, a Facebook friend via preservation circles, recently published a book on the city’s fading painted signs—those giant advertising banners on the sides of buildings for tonics, elixers, food stuffs and whatever else was the currency of that particular neighborhood, such as needles and zippers in the fashion district. Franks’ project, interestingly, also parallels his own observation of a life disappearing: He is a cancer survivor and living with AIDS, which he says is now stabilized. Frank’s vital signs are OK, but those he’s documented on the outside will eventually slip from our notice through neglect or the crush of the ever-developing city.
I can’t remember how I heard about Project Neon, but Kirsten Lively’s documentation of all that glows aptly suits her name. She shows us a New York at night that many of us just walk by, taking for granted these glowing treasures. Grimy and dull by day, neon owns the night and, in turn, harkens others who want to do their business or pleasure when the sun goes down.
Living in a lighted city, I had forgotten what I love about old neon: the lazy and unpredictable glide of gasses through the tubing, the irreplicable colors (there’s no “neon pink” in the Crayola box), and the unique type styling.
But I love it most as the quintessential beacon to night’s pleasures—an illumination into places that are otherwise dark, a promise of excitement, the chance to create your own giddy film noir moment. You can read it at wsjonline.com or download the PDF here.