Austin landmark finds a new home
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Austin landmark finds a new home
MONA acquires Ben Livingston’s pioneering neon mural for permanent collection.

GLENDALE, CA.- The Museum of Neon Art has acquired Ben Livingston’s Mural NO. 1., an Austin, Texas Landmark, pionering electric artwork, and activist statement on nuclear proliferation. The work received a Paul Waterbury Design Award of Excellence–now known as the Illumination Award for Outdoor Design in 1988. Ben Livingston is a neon and light sculptor who uses various mediums ranging from found objects to historical archives/artifacts and photography. The work, composed of line drawings rendered in neon, cycles through six scenes that show a “child’s depiction” of the end of the world via nuclear bombing. The work is meant to reflect the repercussions of war and its impact on children.

“Though it was created over 30 years ago Livingston’s neon mural continues to send an urgent message about the consequences of war and nuclear weapons. Simultaneously a serious and playful icon for the community of Austin, this work is emblematic of Livingston’s long career as an artist as well as his investment in place, politics, and community. We are honored to host this monumental artwork in our collection, and are grateful to Ben Livingston who served an integral role in preserving this work and ensuring public ownership of a mural deeply concerned with the future of humanity, “ states MONA Executive Director, Corrie Siegel.

Since 1986, this piece has illuminated the front of Ben Livingston’s studio in Austin,Texas. It was removed from the facade of the building after 22 years of public display when Livingston had to move out of his studio. This technological marvel–of its time–utilized a 8 by 20 inch computer with relays that sent a series of electrical impulses to a generator which would activate 10 different relays and transformers. All of this was crafted by engineer Frank Roberts. Roberts designed a variable clock generator using a MacCAD program (design program for the analysis of continuous and linear control systems). The control system was held in high technological regard because of its sheer size and the specialized circutery.

Ben Livingston states, “Neon Mural #1 holds a place in art history as a vastly popular local landmark for 22 years, one that beat the Statue of Liberty to win the coveted IES International Lighting Design Award. It was no match against the engines of exponential growth "progress". Such a sad statement of the current condition of the new Austin's short sighted disregard for local cultural history. I'm euphoric that she's been rescued - literally from Austin's landfill to be given a permanent home in Glendale, at the Mecca of neon art - MONA.- Thank G-d MONA came to the rescue!"

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