Stephen Antonakos
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Stephen Antonakos

Stephen Antonakos

We were living in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 1981. We had bounced between Colorado, Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, New Mexico, Washington, D.C. …. I was working with a documentary film maker with offices across from the Ford’s Theater in which Lincoln was assassinated, and where the new Ford’s Theater is now located. Dennis decided to return to D.C. as well and worked in the building that then housed the Washington Project for the Arts (WPA.) Both locations were near the colorful performing arts space, D.C. Space, and the more refined photographic gallery of Harry Lund.

Simultaneous to our return, the WPA launched “Neon Fronts” which evolved to include not only glassed windows displays in vacant buildings but also various public store fronts in the otherwise staid government office environment, of the times.

The Neon Fronts project provided an opportunity for artists such a Chryssa, Bruce Nauman, and Keith Sonnier, all known for their work in neon, as well as other artists now free to experiment with neon as a medium.

“Neon for WPA” 1981 by Stephen Antonakos was a site specific neon artwork installed on what was the sign band for the building which had formerly housed a Woolworths retail store. WPA’s offices were located where Antonakos’s kinetic, layered, abstract piece wrapped two sides of the corner building. This piece (and many others, as part of the project) and the visual magic they made with shapes, color, and light became the inspiration for further interest, research, and later training for our decades long work in the medium, as City Lights Neon.

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