03 March 2010

Show Proposal

We had to write a "proposal" for our show at the Adobe Books Backroom Gallery, despite already having the show set up. I guess it was for publicity purposes, maybe? Or record-keeping? I volunteered to write it, and asked everyone why they wanted to put a show in a gallery, and then tried to phrase it in a way that made sense and incorporated something of what I enjoy about sign painting. Here's what I came up with:

We'd like to do a show about sign painting.

Signs, like any kind of advertising, and most of design for that matter, employ aesthetic concerns to achieve directive ends, perhaps to elicit an emotional response, often one conducive to the more rapid flexing of your purchasing muscles. The "signs, signs, everywhere signs" that ever increasingly break up the scenery, whether or not they're even so bold as to call attention to their own physical beauty, typically do so on behalf of some corporate entity, big or small, wishing you to ascribe whatever design sense is evident in the sign, to the quality of their goods or services on offer. The "language" of signage, meanwhile, encompasses a constantly evolving and multiplying variety of materials and methods to communicate ornately complex nuances of meaning to a bewilderingly polyglot populace.

We sign writers, here at New Bohemia Signs, are a comparatively simple lot--not precisely Luddites, as much as that we perhaps tend to focus more intently on some of the most rudimentary parts of sign language, or any language: the little squiggles, curves and strokes that form our alphabet. Our tool chest holds brushes, enamel, some gold leaf, and not much else; and we're each harboring a cultured intimate familiarity with, and to some extent, abiding love for letter forms, which themselves take shape from the habits our limbs have fallen into, drawing and painting them again and again and again and again and again.

We want to build a show that illustrates something of the path whereby our signs move from idea to sketch, to pattern, to painting; a show that makes apparent the relationship of letter forms to the arc our individual arms take, or to the way we each roll a quill between our fingertips; a show that celebrates, from amidst this digital era of limitless copiability, the joy of fine tuning the only copier that draws its current directly from our hearts.

We relish the opportunity to put our work in a milieu that calls more attention to the concrete shapes of one color against another, and that lends more weight to the aesthetic pleasures of sign painting, in counterbalance to its purposeful functionality. We like to juxtapose the two ends of that scale. We like how the results of our "outmoded technology" of sign making draw out certain feelings, due perhaps to the "human-ness" of the work, and how that is in some way cued by the shapes letters take, and have taken historically, in lending themselves most readily to graceful brushwork. We'll enjoy exploring the craft of sign painting under the rubric of art.

On the walls of the gallery, alongside and underneath finished work, we'll mount patterns, sketches, practice alphabets and iterations of finished work in its earlier stages. We'll also mount one of our workbenches, which will hold some signs, and will also serve its innate purpose for a few evenings of on-location sign painting instruction, and/or souvenir production.