Friday, 9 April 2010

MISC REVIEW: Roadside America - John Margolies


This title presents roadside Americana, fantasy, kitsch and joy on the American roadside. Before the advent of corporate communications and architectural uniformity, America's built environment was a free-form landscape of individual expression. Signs, artifacts and even buildings ranged from artisanal to eccentric, from deliciously kitsch to quasi-psychedelic. Photographer John Margolies spent decades documenting these eye-catching and endearingly idiosyncratic examples of roadside advertising and fantasy structures, a fast-fading form of Americana. This book brings together approximately 400 color photographs arranged into chapters by subject: Main Street signs, movie theaters, gas stations, fast food restaurants, motels, roadside attractions, miniature golf, and Atlantic coast resorts. In an age when online shopping and mega-malls have reconfigured American consumerism, Margolies' 30-year survey reminds us of a more innocent, unpredictable and colorful past.


Whilst everyone is herded to the latest gadgets or must own products, one aspect that is starting to sadly fade is the expressionism of the individual and nowhere is it clearer than in this recently released title by Taschen where the dreams and quirkiness of the few are available for the masses. Here, in this title, author/photographer John Margolies has clocked up over 30 years and 100,000 miles visiting the architecturally unusual or even downright jaw dropping advertising of the American highways/byways alongside roadside attractions which enhanced not only the local community but became a curio for the masses from a sadly disappearing bygone era.

Whilst not every piece from the weird to the kitsch will inspire the reader, it's a fabulous collection of the Americana idiosyncrasies that made the country what it is today. Were these true national treasures to be lost to time and modern development, in my mind, it would be a sad loss to the identity as well as entrepreneurial skills of the generations gone before whose mind conceived of these true wonders of the modern world.

Yet again, a few may well be glad to see what some would term as monstrosities disappear completely from the mind and landscape but its these very things that helped form the identity as well as the dreams of those who now walk upon the same road as these, what I can only term as pioneers. Overall, this title is a great talking point, its quirky but above all its an inspirational graphical demonstration of the individual that deserves to be remembered by all. I truly hope that this title not only amuses but will also help in the preservation of these curio's, true treasures of modern architecture.


Danielle La Paglia said...

As someone who spent a fare amount of her childhood in the back seat of a car (smashed between three siblings), I can tell you how exciting it is to find a little road-side treasure. It looks like a very cool collection.

Michelle said...

Quirky is good. I like quirky. And, there's a lot of it here. :-)