Lyons Wier Gallery is pleased to present “American Neon,” a series of color photographs by Steve Lewis.
Since its invention in 1898, people have been seduced by the warm and cool glowing phenomenon of neon. The first public neon sign was designed and installed in Paris as an advertisement for Palais Coiffeur, a barber shop, in 1912. Neon’s artful journey to America has produced thousands upon thousands of masterpieces. They were often designed and manufactured by local artisans and small sign companies, giving way to the unique and diverse nature of American neon sign culture. Sadly, the decline of neon signs in the 1960’s became inevitable as they were replaced by cheaper and more energy efficient alternatives. These roadside signs have become nostalgic relics of small town Americana and now represent a very small fragment of what once was.
Steve Lewis' photos focus on American neon design and signage from the 1950’s and 60’s. “The neon signs are graphic, sculptural works of art in their own right. When looking at vintage American neon signs, I am fascinated as to how the images, the type face, and the colors coalesce to make a new emotional connection. The signs that I choose to photograph must resonate with my inner spirit, often relating to images from my childhood. My memories are of riding in my parent’s car through an American downtown. The magic of the neon would light my soul and send my emotions flying, making me high. I love the hunt, finding clues on the internet, then traveling to that location and waiting for the right moment, sometimes asking the establishment to turn the sign on a bit earlier than usual. The sign flickers to life and I work to document its existence. Many neon signs no longer work, but in the right light they can be just as remarkable and beautiful.”
Steve Lewis is a professional photographer who has been involved in a variety of projects throughout his career. He received his BFA from Oregon State University and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. His work has been published in Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Oprah Magazine and Wired among others. In addition, his portrait of blues legend John Lee Hooker was featured on the cover of Hooker’s album, “Mr. Lucky.” Lewis has worked with Getty Images creating stock photography since 2000. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the Detroit Museum of Art, the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, Portland Art Museum, and State of Oregon Art Collection. Steve Lewis lives and works in New York City.