Coney Island is Still Dreamland (To a Seagull) at the Brooklyn Museum is a witty show by artist Stephen Powers, who’s organized works by ICY Signs, a collective of artists, sign makers and people who want to make signs. The exhibit is an assemblage of the group’s output over the last 10 years, all of which is hand-made in either Brooklyn or Philadelphia, and also includes some found and vintage signs. There’s a short video in which he talks about the exhibit, which is worth watching.
The signs employ the typography, graphic designs, catchy phrases, bright and pastel colors of commercial signage, especially of an earlier Coney Island, but when you read them, you’ll see that they’re really commentaries on life, with all the joys and messiness of love, work, relationships, and everyday activities.
The signs are not displayed one after the other; instead, some are grouped together on several large canvases, around the perimeter of the space, and seem to revolve a round a theme: “Let’s go anywhere” “The job is getting up again” One canvas contains some 21st century puns, such as “Server not responding” with a picture of a fork. There are two which are each devoted solely to one word, “Adore” and “Eyes” playing with each’s linguistic and graphic possibilities.
In the central rotunda of the room, you’ll find two columns festooned with signs. One contains images and messages you’d expect to see at Coney Island: “Have your handwriting analyzed by Sister Nassia” or an advertisement for “4-Train snake-bite gym bag” (I want one of those!), as well as a charming 3-D depiction of bathers on the beach. The other column is more political in nature, with a visual commentary on relations between residents and the police in housing projects. On one wall is a witty “calendar” for an 8-day week, illustrating activities for each day from “Mundane” through “Someday”
Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to read the signs; it may look a little overwhelming, but it’s well worth the effort. I guarantee you’ll walk out with a smile on your face. More images are on my Instagram feed.
The show runs through August 21st.