L.A. helps Havana’s vintage neon signs glow again


The full title of the article is “L.A. helps Havana’s vintage neon signs glow again: ‘It marks a new era, a return of the light, of hope.’” It focuses on “Havana Light,” a project to restore and relight vintage urban neon signs in Cuba. The article is interesting from an artistic point of view, although it never quite explains what type of “hope” the newly renovated neon signs bring or for whom (but perhaps if we think too deeply about the full implications, then this post might become Havana-heavy). Make sure to check out the photo gallery of urban neon signs in Havana by Vern Evans; see link below.

[. . .] It’s been decades since Havana’s neon signs have infused the city with so much light. But with the public art and urban restoration project Havana Light, neon is glowing again in Cuba.

The initiative is the brainchild of Cuban contemporary artist Kadir López Nieves and Cuban-born Angeleno Adolfo Nodal, who was general manager of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs for 12 years, starting in the late 1980s. Nodal now lives half the year in Havana. During his tenure at the L.A. agency, he had more than 150 vintage neon signs restored in Hollywood, downtown and along the Wilshire corridor, including the Bendix and Knickerbocker hotel signs.

Inspired by that project, Nodal and López Nieves, who met in Cuba’s art scene a decade ago, are now immersed in a self-funded effort to illuminate Havana, one sign at a time.

The neon logos topping hotels, theaters and restaurants — both artfully repaired vintage signs and new commercial ones — are part of the historic preservation of Old Havana during a moment of profound change. They are emblematic of, and meant to inspire, the budding entrepreneurship taking place in Cuba now that citizens may open small businesses and the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations makes travel to the island easier.

“It marks a new era, a return of the light, of hope,” Nodal says on a walking tour of the signs in Havana.

In the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, Nodal says, thousands of commercial neon signs, then thought of as a symbol of modernism and prosperity, crowded Havana’s streets. The city boasted as much neon as Paris and New York. The blur of candy-colored lights lent a moody, noir chic to the island’s vibrant jazz scene, sparking the nickname “the Paris of Latin America.” [. . .]

Read full article at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-havana-light-20160613-snap-story.html (Accessed via EthnoCuba on Facebook; shared by Ariana Hernández Reguant.)

[Photo above by Vern Evans.]

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