Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sign Painters

Kyle, Matthew, and I went to the movie Sign Painters at the Trylon Microcinema tonight which was, not surprisingly, a documentary about the art of sign painting.  There are articles about it all over the web: HuffPost, NPR, Boing Boing.  It was very well done and captured how sign painting had once been a common job that, over the decades, became the domain of a few, found its renaissance, and then took a hit again when computer-generated vinyl signs became popular.

Walking to the train afterward, you could see the whole movie laid out in the Hiawatha area, from Kaufman just around the corner, to the huge painted ADM sign and beautiful stalks of wheat on the side of the grain silos, to the nasty looking faded vinyl and plastic that decorate the walls of Simply Self Storage and the other storage facilities on the street.

Two of the painters in the movie, Forrest and Phil, were at the showing to answer questions for a while after the movie.  They were interesting to listen to and talked about how the city now has rules about signage, and that it can't be more than one square foot per front display footage, unless an existing sign is in place that can be replaced foot for foot, because it allows them to sidestep some of the rules around permits and the "sphincter" of the city bureaucracy.  Phil noted that he likes to be the one to kill his old signs, either painting over them, or replacing them with new signs.

A beautiful movie about an art few people think about but encounter on a daily basis.

""The documentary accomplishes what many films that consist of mostly talking heads do not. Through the individual stories, a larger narrative surfaces about this art form and its fate over time. In many ways, it is more than that. It is a cautionary tale about the head-long rush into a technology-driven time and a meditation on what’s lost along the way. It is a reminder to look around and recognize the physical history in our presence every day." -Mary Louise Schumacher

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