Tuesday, November 05, 2013
[Eastside Eye] Street Art: Our Neon-Lit Neighborhood
Around Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park are fine examples of vintage neon signs, once the street side calling card of choice. Today these pieces of cultural history are more valued than ever and efforts are made to preserve the finest creations.
“Neon is hand-crafted and what is hand-crafted in our world today?” said Kim Koga, director of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA), which will open in Glendale in mid-2015.
As Los Angeles’ development extended to the suburbs, much of the historic core and downtown’s vintage neon remained.
Koga points to the House of Spirits’ sign on Echo Park Avenue as a “treasure,” and admires the Jensen’s Recreation Center sign on Sunset Blvd. Neon was a popular medium inside too and vintage neon clocks are a favorite of collectors.
“It’s the most commercial rated lighting,” said neon artist and restorer Curtis Stimpson of Curtis Clocks in Burbank.
At one time, there were four neon clockmakers in Los Angeles.
“Every business, store and restaurant had a clock and there were courtesy clocks everywhere,” said Stimpson. “Neon light is so smooth, warm and inviting and it can fill an area like no other light.”
A standout neon clock can be found at Thomas Rug Cleaning and Ararat Oriental Rug on Riverside Drive.
Harry Torkomian, partner along with his father, commissioned Curtis Clocks to restore their neon clock, which had been painted over.
It “has a beauty to it and is very eye-catching,” said Torkomian. When MONA’s new building opens Los Angeles will once again have a venue where neon art can be appreciated. Meanwhile, its collection can be viewed in Montclair during the monthly Pomona Art Walk, every second Saturday. A holiday open-air neon cruise bus tour, which includes Los Feliz and Sunset Boulevard, is set for Sat. Dec. 21st.