Best Of 2012

Best Gallery Exhibition: The Art of the Sign

Big signs, little signs, neon signs, bulb-light signs, terra-cotta signs, signs gilt in gold, signs that twirled, signs that did nothing but gloriously effervesce — yes, this was an exhibit composed solely of signs. Vintage signs, especially — dating from the 1960s and back, and mostly hand-plucked from the St. Louis environs' more historic quarters and crannies. Assembled with love and adoration by local artist Bill Christman and a cohort of fellow aficionados, this show proved its simple point to spectacular effect. Signs are art — and an increasingly rarefied variety at that. Most of the specimens on view were rescued from now long-lost structures — old-school diners, former factories, defunct shops — and bore the grit and abrasion of ample servings of hard time. Others appeared as though newly minted, thanks to meticulous restoration efforts by lenders and organizers: blinking, whirring, beaming and proclaiming bold graphic messages in a manner rapidly evaporating in this virtual age. Hung salon-style in Christman's gallery, Ars Populi, the signage provided a journey through time and popular aesthetic history, jubilantly linking a blue-collar craft to the loftier echelons in the annals of art.

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