Neon sunset Class shines light on Duke City history

By Nick Stern, Managing Editor | Photo by Nick Stern


Not only has the city of Albuquerque commissioned Art Instructor, Larry Bob Phillips and his 1125 Art Practices class to create an original mural to capture the history of Albuquerque displayed right in the heart of Downtown, the class’s mural will also be featured in the “Heart of the City” art exhibit starting in February, Phillips said.

The Heart of the City exhibition’s opening recep­tion will take place Feb. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will be located at 516 Central Ave. at 516 ARTS.

This show will feature lead artists, student appren­tices, public art projects and public programs focused on envisioning the future of Downtown Albuquerque, and partnered with thirteen Albuquerque organizations to examine the strengths, weaknesses and needs of the city’s urban core for this exhibition, according to

For the project, the class decided to tackle a depiction of the Route 66 era “neon sunset,” which is near Century 14 Downtown, at the corner of First Street and Central Avenue, he said.

“For our location at First and Central we felt like it made a lot of sense to recog­nize and address this history of the neon sunset, western landscape, American Dream, car culture from the 50’s through the end of the cen­tury,” Phillips said.

The mural is called “Signs of the Times” and is a set of imagery that was devel­oped to pertain to the legacy of signage in Albuquerque, he said.

Students picked out dif­ferent signs from all around town that they thought were interesting and told some kind of story about Albuquerque, Phillips said.

Following that step they were tasked with creating a black and white line drawing of those signs which Local Designer, Jesse Philips col­laborated with the class to come up with a dynamic composition, in which all of the signs were conformed into a collaged landscape of Albuquerque’s most famous signage, Phillips said.

Signs are from well-known Albuquerque hot spots such as the Dog House, Octopus Car Wash, as well as many old hotel signs sprawled throughout Central Avenue.

Phillips said he was very interested in the art of sign and mural painting but he knew that lettering by hand involved techniques that were not normally taught by fine arts instructors, he said.

“There is a whole craft there that is almost like secret knowledge and is learned as a trade by profes­sionals, and it is not really what is in the purview of fine art instructors,” Phillips said.

When the class was commissioned by the city of Albuquerque to paint the mural, Phillips decided that quality instructions on how to do proper lettering was the greatest and most impor­tant thing that funds could go to, he said.

He got in touch with a sign instructor named Curtis Mott, who proved to be an invaluable asset to towards the project, Phillips said.

Mott taught them things that they never knew and they had quality instruc­tions in areas that they did not even know existed, Phillips said.

As teaching goes, Phillips said doing the mural was an incredible opportu­nity and even though there was a lot of responsibility as far as the quality expecta­tions went, there was no strict structure set around how they would get it done, Phillips said.

“As far as teaching, it was a dream come true because we had an expanded timeline. There was a lot of responsibility in terms of the quality of the final product, but there was no rigid struc­ture around how we would get there,” Phillips said.

Studio Arts Major and IT 1010 Instructor, Karina Guzzi said that she helped with the painting of the mural, and painted many of the different aspects seen in the mural such as some of the letter outlining, she said.

Guzzi said she had lots of fun working with her class on the project and is incred­ibly proud of the fine work that she got to be a part of in this project.

“It was a blast. It is really cool to drive or walk by and see that there is something that is public and visible that I helped create and that I was a part of,” Guzzi said.

Guzzi believes she was very privileged to be a part of Phillip’s Art Practices class and has gotten more out of it than she could have hoped for including the mural and an art exhibit that the class is preparing for, she said.

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