These beautiful neon signs are just part of the work of yesteryear on display at the Neon Muzeum in Warsaw. These days, commercial signage seems dominated by color-changing LEDs or screens that sprawl across acres of building facade. Giant words flash and dissolve in inelegant and often illegible typography. But these old, artful, and hand-wrought signs harken back to a simpler era in a way that only glass tubes of electrified gas can. It’s a warmer feeling for some than for others.
The typefaces here are sharp and they have a satisfying dimension. I tend to think of type as something mostly printed and flat, but these signs have a depth even when they illuminated at night. From the form of the aluminum letters supporting the neon, to the way the the tubes overlap when folded, there are different magnitudes of depth as you move toward and away from the signage. But there is also a history (see “Polish Cold War Neon” review halfway down the page) about neon signage in the cold war era that makes their presence and preservation more compelling; the signs were “part of international attempts to reconcile socialism and consumerism . . . a radiant ‘You are here.’ ”