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Edition 2015

Toon Michiels

American Neon Signs by Day and Night

In the mid seventies, Toon Michiels made various journeys to the United States of America, where he undertook a number of road trips in a rented. Very quickly, Michiels developed a fascination for the spectacular neon signs that motels and restaurants had placed along the highways to lure passing drivers to make a stop-over. The neon signs meant to trigger anyone’s attention and fantasy, with their playful graphic and architectural qualities and colourful lights. Michiels photographed them by day and by night in a rigid, systematic way: frontal view, placing them in the middle of the frame with just a bit of space around them – whatever size they might be. The series connects strongly with the typological work of the German photographers Bernd & Hilla Becher, but one may also see a parallel with the pre-WWII work of Walker Evans, who was equally fascinated by text in photographs. Michiels photographed his anonymous sculptures in full colour, in a time when colour photography was hardly considered a serious art medium. This fact, in combination with its clarity and richness, makes this project stand out in the history of 20th century photography.
Frits Gierstberg

Exhibition curators: Sam Stourdzé, in collaboration with Christien Bakx et Erik Kessels.

Texts: Frits Gierstberg, chief curator, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam.

Exhibition coproduced by the Rencontres d'Arles and The Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam.
Exhibition venue: Eglise des Trinitaires.