AND SO IT CONTINUES, the deification of Art Deco. Bit by bit, people are feeding their nostalgia for the heyday of Hollywood, for Broadway, for flappers, for flamingoes, for froufrou. Art Deco societies are falling all over themselves in their efforts to preserve and catalogue any bit of art or architecture that smacks of the period. Is it curved? Then it's Deco. Is it linear? Then it's Deco. Does it feel right? Then it's Deco.
Although the average collector would probably define Art Deco as "that '20s and '30s Hollywood movie stuff," the Art Deco period dates in general from 1925, when the now-and then-heralded L'Exposition Internationale des Arts D,ecoratifs et Industriels Modernes opened in Paris, through the '30s, when the machine age (and the Depression) kicked in for real, and streamlined was next to godliness in the design world.
Art Deco (the term was actually coined in the '60s; in the '20s, the movement was dubbed "art moderne") keeps having revivals. There were exhibitions in the '60s, in the '70s and now, in the '80s, Art Deco is simmering again. Washington Deco dealer and artist Nicole Cohen got together with neon artist Ted Bonar to produce a spruced-up Art Deco bar that fuses two major elements of art moderne: You could call it geo (or gee whiz) neon. The bar itself, manufactured by an English company in the mid-'30s, has been painted and airbrushed by Cohen. Its stocky, horizontal curves cover doors on each side that open to disclose shelves and the top, which opens to the heart of the bar. Multi-use furniture was popular in the '20s and '30s, when people moved to apartments or smaller homes -- and when Prohibition encouraged the cover-up of alcohol and its accessories.
The red neon zigzag tubing was designed by Bonar, who kept the bar in his studio to study its design. Neon, introduced in the United States in the 1920s, was first used -- and has remained mostly in use -- in signage. Increasing numbers of artists who work with neon (which is experiencing its own revival) are using neon in design. Ted Bonar's original idea for the piece was to bend the neon tubing to follow the curved lines of the bar. But he wasn't satisfied with a simple mimicking of the lines. He started thinking about red, and heat, and the devil liquor. He decided to bend the neon tubing to form zigzag lightning bolts on each side of the front of the bar. The tubing flows through the inside of the bar and out through the back. When the bar's back is against the wall and the lights are low, the neon's eerie aura glows.
For those who would dismiss Art Deco, for those who embrace it, don't look behind you: the best is yet to come.