The Musuem of Neon Art‘s space in Downtown’s Historic Core may be tiny, but the effect of its dazzling neon art is huge.
As a big MONA fan, I was both saddened and heartened by the recent announcement of the museum’s plan to relocate to Glendale. The new venue will offer state-of-the-art facilities for neon restoration and exhibition areas many times the size of the current location. But it will no longer be right in my backyard. Last Thursday during Art Walk, I was able to stroll over to MONA from my Little Tokyo apartment.
Of course, everyone knows that Art Walk is probably the worst time to view art. I found that the case at MONA.Even before entering, I was pummeled with a wall of cacophonous sound. Inside, a two-man band generated music from a keyboard and a computer. Neither acknowledged the many perplexed visitors. Jericho Woggon‘s installation piece “California Surf” wrapped around one wall, acting as a backdrop. A blacklight illuminated the graphic cut-out shapes pasted to the wall, creating an eerie effect. Moving as quickly as I could away from the noise, I discovered that most of the museum was closed off. The open area included the gift shop. There, I saw not only merchandise but also art on display, such as photographs of neon signs, and also actual neon pieces. But it was way too crowded to browse comfortably. I awkwardly dodged through the people – many snapping photos on cameras or cell phones – to the exit, vowing to make a return trip on any night other than Art Walk.
Ironically enough, I soon found myself flipping through a heavy volume called LAKICH: For Light. For Love. For Life. while waiting for a job interview at a downtown arts organization. It’s a “visual memoir” of Lili Lakich – the visionary neon artist who founded MONA. The photos and stories on its pages offered an experience infinitely more compelling and satisfying than viewing the neon itself.