Neon Signs As Local Art On Display

August 15, 2014

Think back to your first road trip through the West, whizzing through small towns in the middle of nowhere, watching bright neon signs stretch through the night before you roll back into the desert. The Seventh Annual Grid Show at the Trunk Space in Phoenix aims to capture that nostalgia by displaying photographs and art of those iconic and vintage Arizona signs. 

Historian Marshall Shore helps organize the show and choose its theme, which changes every year.

"So it always has to do with location. That’s what the Grid Show is all about. It’s local art about local things," Shore said.

As modern cities have expanded, more and more of the flashy signs from decades passed disappear. But the signs have an important place in the history of America’s western expansion.

"So these old neon signs from the 1930s, 40s 50s and 60s really represent American’s love affair with the automobile and our relationship with sort of the West and highway driving culture," said Demion Clinco president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation.

Clinco said that the signs were created as works of art, a collaboration between business owners and local artists, and played a big role in forming the culture of the Wild West.

"Places like Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles all are a part of this western story. These neon signs are an integral part of that visual vocabulary that defines our built environment," Clinco said.

The Grid Show opens Friday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Trunk Space in Phoenix.