All posts in art

Shedding Light on a Century-Old Craft: Neon Lighting

New signage in the Squeaky Loft.

New signage in the Squeaky Loft.

Living in a digital, connected world means we all have near-instant access to almost anything. Want to plan a trip? There’s a site for that. Want to order a pizza? There’s an app for that. All of this “connectedness” can sometimes make life feel as if it’s speeding by – causing us to forget to stop and admire the craft and perfection that goes into everything that surrounds us, especially art.

That’s why when we recently commissioned our friends at Manhattan Neon for a new neon sign for our office, we decided to take the time to find out more about their historic craft. These guys have been in the neon lighting business for 30 years and are known for iconic  installations like the Coca-Cola sign in Times Square and the Macy’s ‘Believe’ sign.

For our sign, we chose the phrase, “Always Be Nice,” as it closely parallels our ethos and is at the core of our agency culture. We chose to hang it above the conference room so that it can act as a centerpiece of the office as well as a way to inform everyone when meetings and conference calls are in session.

DSC_2055When it was nearly complete, we went to check it out and sat down with the artist who crafted it (a strapping Irish fellow named Steve) to learn more about the history of neon lighting, the industry and his craft.

Neon signage is all done by hand

Neon signage is all done by hand

Q: When did neon lighting first come about?

A: Neon lighting was first created for the purpose of illumination. Europe was competing with the likes of Edison and others for a practical form of lighting and neon lighting was unveiled at the Paris Expo in 1910. In 1923, Georges Claude introduced neon signs to the U.S. with the sale of two signs to a Packard automobile dealership in LA. Upon displaying these new signs near the highway, drivers were intrigued and slowed down to check them out—causing a traffic jam for hours.

Q: How does Neon lighting work exactly? It’s basically running electricity through neon gas and because it’s in glass it allows the light to escape right?

A: Exactly. Primarily you use two gases to create neon signing: Neon (Ne) which produces red and Argon (Ar) which produces blue but variations of gases produce different colors.

Q: Being around for over 100 years now, neon signage is seemingly archaic in the digital age, but surprisingly there is still a demand for it. Why do you think that is?

A: With the rise of technology, modern signage became almost too accessible thus, inadvertently catapulting neon signage into more of an art form.

This sign was used in the film, "The Departed"

This sign was used in the film, “The Departed”

Q:What is the most popular or well-known sign you’ve created at Manhattan Neon?

A: Signs in Times Square such as the Coca-Cola bottle are probably amongst the most well-known signs we’ve produced.

Q: What is the strangest request for a sign you’ve had?

A: Neon signs became popular amongst peep shows and strip clubs and the old 42nd street used to be teeming with them. (Manahattan Neon actually has a bunch of vintage signs from this era)

Q: Is it dangerous if these gas-filled glass tubes drop and break?

A: No that wouldn’t be dangerous but like any job there are dangers in neon sign crafting. I’ve accidentally burned and electrocuted myself in the past. DSC_2159Q: What is your favorite part about the neon lighting business?

A: What’s not to like? I come in, wear what I want and get to do what I love.

We had a great time getting to know Steve and learning more about our talented neighbors at Manhattan Neon.  Next time you stop by Squeaky, be sure to check out our new signage and let us know what you think.

 

 

Winter Fun in the City

Puffy jackets, beanies, gloves, and snow can only mean one thing – winter has officially hit NYC. Even with Winter Storm Hercules upon us, there is no reason we should feel crippled by the face-numbing chill. New York City boasts numerous activities that can be enjoyed inside and outside. So instead of hibernating at home until Easter, why not get out and embrace the winter and all that NYC has to offer?

For the Night Life

NYC is home to some of the best music venues and artists in the world. Why not bowl a few frames, sip some whiskey, and catch a live show at Brooklyn’s very own Brooklyn Bowl?

Brooklyn Bowl

Brooklyn Bowl

For the Outdoorsy

Feel like getting some exercise? Head over to Central Park’s Wollman Rink and show off those skills we all know you have.

Central Park Ice Skating

Wollman Rink in Central Park

For the Relaxed

Curl up by the fireplace, play Jenga with friends, and eat soft pretzels at Greenpoint’s Spritzenhaus.

Greenpoint’s Spritzenhaus

Greenpoint’s Spritzenhaus

For the Curious

The hardest part about going to a museum in the city is picking which one to visit! With world famous museums like the MOMA, The Met, the New Museum, the Guggenheim, and the American Museum of Natural History, it can be a challenge picking just one. So why not spend a day hitting them all?

Chris Burden's Extreme Measures exhibit at the New Museum on the LES

Chris Burden’s Extreme Measures exhibit at the New Museum on the LES

These really only scratch the surface of what NYC has to offer. What are your favorite things to do in NYC during these cold winter months?

Art in the Workplace

In today’s hectic, information-overloaded age, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer bombardment of stimuli. Fortunately, there are different ways to cope—to slow down and to take a collective breath. Whether it’s relaxing at home with a favorite book, listening to your favorite album or visiting a museum, we all tend to find comfort in art and its various forms.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

The workplace can be especially stressful—but it shouldn’t have to be. At Squeaky, we put a lot of effort into creating a space for our team that not only welcomes reflection and innovation but also contributes positively to our company culture. We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting additions and very recently we added this awesome piece of ‘Ride-able Art’ you see below, custom-built by the Chappell brothers (Rob and Chris) at Chappell Customs.

Stout 33

At Chappell Customs, their goal isn’t to re-invent the wheel but rather, to create unique ride-able bikes with custom flair and extreme attention to detail. This particular bike is referred to as the Stout 33 and is a 1982 XS650 Heritage Special (with a few custom tweaks). It’s an incredible piece of machinery and we feel it complements our space quite nicely.

Items like this bike add a dash of flavor to our culture, creating a lasting impression for visitors and a fun, comfortable work environment for the Squeaky staff. But don’t take our word for it, check out some of our excited staff members test driving it below. That is, until Spring when the Stout will be setting off car alarms in NYC and North Jersey :)

Stout 33

Stout 33

The First Five Years of the Artist Whose Canvas was New York

Recently, we were fortunate enough to check out the Keith Haring exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Real Pop Art lovers know everything there is to know about Haring, the pre-eminent artist and social activist. But for those who aren’t familiar, we’ve gathered some of his pieces to share with you in celebration of his short but intense career. The show took place in three main galleries and presented Haring’s early works (1978-1982) in a variety of media. It outlined the development of his studio practice and production of public and political art through works on paper and archival objects such as exhibition flyers, rarely seen videos and self-portraits.

After viewing this huge collection, it is hard to believe it was all produced in a brief five-years—with the young artist dying at just 31-years-old.

Keith Haring was one of the prominent artists of the downtown scene in the 1970’s and 80’s, along with his good friends Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Untitled piece: Basquiat & Haring Collaboration (on the left: Haring’s baby and Basquiat’s crown – two important symbols)

Haring first came to public attention with his drawings, a subtle wink to New Yorkers on the subway—and his friendship with Andy Warhol connected him to rising celebrities like Madonna, who described Haring’s work as “StreetArt”.

Haring was also socially-conscious, and his work often reflected his position on social issues.  As a philanthropist, he established the Keith Haring Foundation to provide funding to AIDS organizations as well as to promote activism and awareness about the disease.

By expressing concepts of war, birth, death and sex with his simple lines and vibrant colors, Haring’s work has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.

His personal sketchbooks were the most fascinating; they were filled with intricate drawings with enigmas needing resolve. Haring’s life photographs were also displayed on some walls and as we browsed the gallery, it really felt like we were in his head.

Indeed, beyond the display of his technical art, the exhibition gives us a real overview of what kind of person Haring was: a humane and committed artist with a kind soul.

If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Museum, you should check it out—although the Keith Haring exhibit is over for now they’ve got some other really amazing exhibits worth seeing.