The Appearance of the Letters of the Hollywood Sign in the Smog and at a Distance
by David Gissen
Ever since the Hollywood Sign was erected in 1923, many have captured the experience of air pollution in Los Angeles by photographing, drawing, and painting the city's most famous icon as it disappears into the city's hazy sky. Because the Hollywood Sign is so iconic, everyone knows that it is composed of the letters H, O, L, L, Y, W, O, O, and D, but few consider the actual legibility of its letters in these hazy conditions. During major bouts of smog, and when viewed from a distance, the sign's capitalized letters can appear to create strange spellings, such as 'NCLLYWCCD,' 'HDLLYWDDD,' or even 'KGIUVWUUU.'
From the artworks of Ed Ruscha to tourist photographs, these representations portray the impact of hydrocarbons and ozone in disrupting our perception of distance, shapes, and shade-a phenomenon known as 'contrast reduction.' According to studies based on ophthalmological research, the letters of the Hollywood Sign could hypothetically be perceived as about 1,700 different words when contrast is significantly reduced, and at least 100,000 different words in conditions of contrast reduction caused by severe smog. The exhibition displays 5,000 of these smoggy spellings, arranged from the most to the least legible.
Conceived, coded and written by David Gissen
Typography by Jon Sueda
Typeface (Atlas) by Kai Bernau
Printed by Colpa Press
Edition of 100