ALSO CHECK OUT: Ghost signs from around the world
BetterLetters dot Co Presents: Mike Meyer Sign Painting Workshop in Industry City, Brooklyn – Nov. 29-30
Date: 29-30 November 2014, 10am-5pm
Venue: Van Zee Sign Co, 55 33rd St (Studio A319), Brooklyn
Cost: $395 for two days, includes all equipment and refreshments
All enquiries: Sam Roberts at Better Letters, [email protected] or +44 7989 409 046
Full worldwide workshop listings: www.betterletters.co/workshops
Flying pigs, retro hairstyles and hand grenades are among some of the images found in this new book celebrating the art and craft of Cambodia’s hand-painted advertising.
Sam Roberts, a long-time member of the visual anthropological and urban archaeological community, has published his first book Hand-Painted Signs of Kratie, a brilliant and colorful monograph that “introduces the signs, the people who paint them and uses them to explore Cambodia’s art, culture and history.” Mr. Roberts has authored the website and archival project called Ghostsigns UK and has been instrumental in the historic preservation and documentation of vintage painted adverts in his island nation. Roberts was drawn to this “quirky” form of hand-painted advertising while he and his wife Gilly were doing humanitarian work with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Cambodia.
While the signs have experienced something of a resurgence in the last three decades, they now face another demise, this time at the hands of technological and economic development. In this respect, author Sam Roberts draws parallels with his interest in ‘Ghostsigns’, the fading remains of advertising painted on buildings in his native UK: “The loss of hand-painted signs marks a distinct period in countries’ economic development. It is the point at which access to technology and rising labour costs tip the balance in favour of mechanical or digital formats. In the UK this happened in the middle of the last century, in Cambodia it is happening today.”
The eagerly awaited release of Frank Jump’s ‘Fading Ads of New York City’ book is almost upon us. I was fortunate enough to be offered a sneak preview by Frank himself so here are some reflections on the book to whet your appetite and hopefully encourage you to get a copy as soon as it’s published in the UK and the USA.
First and foremost is the quality of photography and the specimens that Frank has captured in his daring escapades around New York. 72 examples are beautifully documented which, although representing just a fraction of his collection, offer up some of the best examples to be found in this city of signs. Two of my favourites are his first ever photograph, the four-storey Omega Oil, and the colourfully illustrated sign for M. Rappoport’s Music Store. The selection is diverse, providing excellent examples of many components of the painted form: scale; lettering; illustration; characters; slogans.
Omega Oil by Frank Jump
Accompanying each sign in the book is a well researched account of the history of the company advertised. This is then set within the context of the wider industry and its connection to New York. In this sense, the book is an historical account of the commercial history of the city and the districts within it. There are parallels to Ben Passikoff’s ‘The Writing on the Wall’, although Frank uses individual signs as his springboard into the wider historical context.Perhaps the most striking difference between Frank’s book and others in the growing catalogue of Ghostsigns titles is the personal dimension that he brings to his work. The connections between his documentation of New York’s Fading Ads and his fight against HIV/AIDS are inescapable. He uses the unintended survival of the signs as a metaphor for his own survival against the odds, and is very candid in his account of his own story. In this respect, the book is part history, part autobiography, and I learned about more than just Ghostsigns from reading it.Adding another layer of depth to the book are a series of written pieces by various figures including historians, academics, and fellow Fading Ad enthusiasts. There are nine in total including an introduction from Ghostsigns pioneer William Stage (author of the original ‘Ghost Signs’ book) and an extended essay considering the meaning of these signs in terms of time and place from Dr Andrew Irving of the University of Manchester. It is clear from these accompanying texts that Frank’s life and work has touched many people in a positive way. In fact, my own account of the encouragement he offered me in the early stages of my interest in hand painted advertising is one such contribution. (To what extent it adds any depth you can judge for yourself by downloading here…)
This book is a fantastic addition to the published material available on the topic and I learned a lot from it. I hope that the publishers will commission a sequel so that even more of Frank’s photography can find its way onto the printed page. In fact, it looks like it might be the first in a series of titles based on this recent announcement from Lawrence O’Toole.
all images © Jerry Johnson
Here are ten images from Jerry “Orange Outdoor” Johnson’s private collection. Before establishing Orange as Brooklyn’s premiere hand-painted sign company in 1977, Johnson worked as a walldog for Seaboard Outdoor. These ads represent some of the work he did while at Seaboard and some of his signature murals like “Cash.”
Here is a response from Sam Roberts @ UK Brick Ads to Jerry Johnson’s work:
Frank Jump over in NYC has just posted a collection of ten outstanding images from the work of experienced signwriter (or “wall dog” in USA) Jerry Johnson. Some of these are genuine pieces of advertising and some, like the one pictured, are spoofs. The craftsmanship, or ‘art’ (?), is exceptional and so is the photography. It must be really satisfying finishing off a piece of work and then stepping back to take the first photo.
© Frank H. Jump
Sam Roberts of UK Brick Ads site was kind enough to comment on the recent Landmarks hearings at which I was asked to speak on behalf of Colossal Media, but sent a letter instead due to work schedule conflicts.
Recently I was contacted by Colossal Media Advertising to represent them at a NYC Landmarks Commission hearing about the 60 Grand Street Coca-Cola ad space being used for a modern ad site. Here is the letter I had read during the hearing since it was scheduled while I was teaching school.
The New York City
Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street
New York, NY 10007
December 11, 2007
Good Afternoon Chair Robert B. Tierney
& Representatives of the Landmarks Preservation Commission,
My name is Frank Jump and I’m speaking on behalf of Colossal Media Advertising. I’ve been documenting vintage painted mural ads on NYC brick-faces for over a decade. My websites (Fading Ad Campaign and Fading AIDS Gallery) and the Fading Ad Blog have received critical attention and their unique take on vintage advertising continues to be exemplified as a metaphor of survival since my diagnosis with HIV in 1984. In 1998, the N-Y Historical Society exhibited twenty-four photographs of what I call fading ads (as opposed to ghost ads)- representations of the impermanence of life. These remnants of our advertising past have since become symbols of shifting demographics, urban renewal and development.
Recently on Bill Maher’s HBO Real Time, Gloria Steinhem stated, “Nostalgia is another form of obstructionism.¹” At first, this comment seemed reactionary, but when given some further reflection, its implication within the context of the political banter became transcendent. Progress is thwarted when we hold on to feelings of what we perceive as “the good old days.” Today’s classic fading ads were once yesterday’s eyesores. Back in the heyday of hand-painted outdoor advertising, a tradition we owe to ad pioneers like OJ Gude, much of the public debate was over the unsightliness of these oversized ads. Not much has changed in a century.
Colossal Media produces modern ads that are visually exciting- ads that will become tomorrow’s classic fading ads. With the hand-painted brickface ad medium, Colossal Media is continuing the tradition of the painted ad that has become an indelible symbol of New York’s urban landscape. Tourists come to New York, the mecca for world commerce- and expect to see both the historic and modern- the old classic and the new classic. Sign enthusiasts all over the world, like Sam Roberts UK Brick Ads Blog² marvel over Colossal’s painted mural ads, which have become a tourist attraction. No one expects fading ads to last forever. Just like fashion trends, they come and go. I’d rather see a vintage ad covered by a classic Colossal modern work of art than with one of those crass outdoor illuminated billboards or a dingy nylon fabric hung ad. The pride Colossal Media takes in their work is evident in their finished product.
Frank H. Jump