At some point in recent years the image of this hazard sign popped into my head and I had to recreate it. There was some allure to taking a simple, banal caution message and recreating it with my own hands. Would the impact and meaning be drained from it once isolated and out of context? Maybe. Sort of. But this wasn’t the time for such questions. The task was just something that needed to be done.
I was obsessed with road signs as a kid. The graphic forms and bold colors. The deceptive scale. The simplicity. The immediacy. The minimalism. As Frank Stella once said of his hard-edged, geometric paintings, “What you see is what you see.” Well, I saw what I saw in those signs – and it was awesome. It’s no wonder I was soon obsessed with pop art, posters, packaging, signage and typography. They’re all clean, simple, designed things.
I was so obsessed that my dad and I salvaged an arrow sign (seen in this photograph) from a knocked-down post when I was in elementary school. We were driving along and saw the sign – still attached to the post – strewn off to the side of the road peeking out from a thicket of tall grass. To see it languishing there, out of reach, was just too much. We went back that evening with some tools – under the cover of darkness – released it from the post and took it home. Dad did the heavy lifting. I stood lookout. I was so excited. I couldn’t believe that the thing was sitting in our living room. I stared at it all evening.
I was so very obsessed that my mom made scale replicas of my favorite road signs with poster board and permanent marker. She faithfully recreated the precise circles and arcs of the No U Turn sign by tracing the perimeter of a mixing bowl. She was a trooper. I just sat back and art directed to assure that the details were totally, completely accurate. We amassed quite the collection. As props they made bike riding a treat for me and a nuisance for everyone else – all needed to obey the posted signage.
I’m glad I kept this sign. It brightened my days back in the suburbs of Philadelphia and it brightens my days in our workshop here in Georgia.
So here, again, is Untitled. Pure and simple. Perfect.
Mom, Dad, PennDOT – this one’s for you.
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