Posted by Frank Murch | Sep 12, 2013, 4:32:00 AM
An interesting book
The Signs of Our Times ISBN 1-55859-209-1 by John Margolies and Emily Gwathmey
There was a period in American history when America took to the highw
ays. They visited attractions of all sorts, they dinned and stayed in motels for the first time. This period from 1920 – 1960 has some of the most innovative and interesting advertising. The “Signs of the Times” is a collection of photographs taken over a 40 year period, from the 1970s. Many of these signs are fading into the past. They were old when the photos were taken and many no longer exist.
These are a cultural treasure. They show unique pieces of individual imagination. Today most advertising is national and as such, extremely standardized. These older pieces are compelling and utterly interesting. It makes one want to experience the attractions, the food or the service. It is also corny, crude, simplistic and utterly fantastic.
These include buildings that are built to look like shoes, fish, dinosaurs and other shapes that would never pass the zoning boards today. Most are the creation of a single person’s imagination and are unique “one off” examples of pop culture. It shows figures such as the muffler man and many huge structures with the single purpose of attracting attention. It the world of virtual reality we have today, they are impressive in a very dif
ferent way than originally intended, they hark back to a different, more direct, more naïve period. There are signs that show shrimp, hotdogs, Teepees and unique shapes, images of food, people, and other things that are not standard shapes, they are is three dimensions, and they are un measurable with modern zoning and are just not reproducible.
It is a very easy read, more of a coffee table book, it is an entertaining look at a time past. It also makes us realize the signs of the past are being lost at a rapid rate. That is a shame, as the highway culture is nostalgic and invaluable. It is also a gem art collectors, museums and galleries.
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