Book Review: Spectacular Illumination

In addition to sewing, I’ve been spending a good deal of time outside reading, and recently I finished Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles 1925-1965.

Cover of Spectacular Illumination, which features a black and white photograph of a streamline modern drive-in restaurant. Overlay text on the photo reads "Just Finished..."

I’ve always been a fan of neon, and if you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, then you know that! When I saw this book for sale the last time I visited the Museum of Neon Art (MONA), I just knew I had to buy it, plus one of my favorite people helped in its creation, Eric Lynxwiler. The book covers neon signage in Los Angeles from 1925 through 1965. Neon began to fade out in the mid-1960s due to the arrival of backlit plastic which was cheaper to make. Made up entirely of vintage photos, Spectacular Illumination showcases the wide variety of ways neon was used throughout the City of Angels.

But before neon’s arrival, bulb signs were the norm, and the book also discusses that time period. I ended up learning a lot about the history of lighted signage, as well as Los Angeles in reading the book. While nearly 200 pages, it is a quick read, because it is mainly photographs. It was fun playing “Oh, I’ve seen that sign” when reading, and of course I bemoaned the fact many of these signs are no longer with us. However some of them are now within the collection at MONA.

Not only is this a great neon book, it’s a great architecture book. Neon did not only exist on signs, but on buildings themselves as well, and it’s incredibly interesting to see how neon was used within architecture. The streamline drive-in restaurants by Wayne McAllister stand out as some of my favorites.

If you love neon and/or Los Angeles, I would say that Spectacular Illumination is a must buy! You can purchase Spectacular Illumination from MONA’s gift shop. Money spent there goes directly to the museum itself, which is hurting due to COVID-19. But please be sure to put it on your list of places to visit once the country reopens.

You can read about my first visit to MONA here, and see the photos and read about their amazing and unique experience that is the Neon Cruise here.

Disclaimer: I was not approached by the author or publishers to do a review Spectacular Illumination. I wrote this review of my own accord.

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