No Sign: The Book

by TJ Norris


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It all started in 2008 while on a trip to Los Angeles. The economy was shifting dramatically. I looked up at the deep blue sky and saw two towering blank industrial marquees staring back at me. The everyday architecture of signage was hollowly attractive, bold. In the ensuing few years the work has evolved from a candid, scant glance to over 4000 images, abundant, repetitive banality. From mom n’ pop shops to big box chains, the side of the road is oft dotted with these blank-faced signs.

To develop this series I travelled the Northwest, the Sierras, Northeast and Midwest finding similar in small rural towns and major metropolitan areas. There is no inherent mystery or majesty to my subject, they simply sit there, unabashedly stoic. I have excised the horizonline, separating the location from the great unknown, or as philosopher Emmanuel Levinas might have termed, "the other". These totems to the fallen American dream have been spied on highways and dusty back roads, disconnected from the surrounding sub/urban plan. The archetypal references now obliterated, leaving only an erasure of a long lost message lingering without intent.

After 3 years I wish to bring this work to a larger audience through publication. One goal would be to work directly with a publisher to print a limited edition of 250 copies in hardcover that would include thirty-five (35) b/w plates and one four sheet foldout grid panel in color that would depict as many images from the series as possible. Twenty-five copies of the book would also include a numbered, signed archival print. The book would have a self-penned preface and a forward by a respected (unnamed) curator or architectural expert (I have approached Robert Venturi).

Editorial assistance could be extremely helpful in paring down from 250 to the final 35 images. My goal is to go to press no later than June 2013. The book would be available for purchase and its subsequent exhibition tour to university museums and galleries (I am in talks with sites in Colorado and Minnesota, other 4-6 week-long exhibitions will be added).

The funds would be used to support the costs associated with travel/shipping, printing (books, prints, finishing), writer’s fee, advertising and website development/creation. Since this is a first-time venture there will be unknown costs associated moving forward, so additional funds (overage) would be helpful given any out-of-pocket expenses unforeseen. These could include additional editing, binding and other presentation-based expenses, packing materials and any possible insurance costs.

Huge gratitude is extended to those wonderful teachers who pushed me to follow my vision even if it wasn’t popular like Abelardo Morrell, Laura McPhee, Jan Peacock, Annemarie Norton and Candace Siegel. I thank my family and friends, in particular Lyn White and Chris Ransdell who were instrumental assistants during this project. I’m reaching out to my extended community of fellow creative, collectors, curators, teachers and the general public to consider supporting me in these next crucial steps to bringing this dream to life.

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