Neon signs first lit up the streets of Paris in 1912, and throughout the twentieth century they’ve provided a magical and luxurious way to communicate information and sell products. But proliferation of LEDs—light emitting diodes— in the past several decades has had dramatic effects on the neon industry. And lit signs, which were once one-of-a-kind crafted objects, have now become cheaply manufactured commodities. On today’s show, guest host Chali Pittman examines the magical world of neon signs, with three guests.
Luis de Miranda is a philosopher and author of Being and Neonness, a new cultural history of neon that will be published by MIT Press next month. He’s an international philosopher whose thinking centers around the creation of reality under a model he calls crealism.
Tom Zickuhr is a commercial neon signmaker in Madison. The neon signs crafted in his east side shop light up businesses all across the city. His work is also shown at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He’s a lecturer at UW-Madison, where he teaches students how to bend neon. Every spring his students have an exhibition at the Chazen Museum of Art, and this year’s exhibition is coming up in early May.
Meryl Pataky is an Oakland-based sculptor and fine artist, and curator of She Bends—a national of exhibition of work by women neon benders. The Milwaukee iteration of She Bends is on view at Milwaukee’s Var West gallery until Saturday, March 23rd.