The Pre-Vinylette Society: An International Showcase of Women Sign Painters was an exhibition and accompanying events that took place at the Chicago Art Department in September, 2017. This group art show celebrated the work of more than sixty women sign painters from nine countries and was the first sign painting exhibition to feature women only. The exhibition displayed the talent of an international array of women sign painters with a wide range of experience and skill. Coming off the heels of the traumatic 2016 American Presidential Election, this exhibition offered a vital feminist statement that pushed back against the common belief that the field of sign painting, like many skilled trades, is the domain of men alone.
The Pre-Vinylette Society’s International Showcase of Women Sign Painters featured text-based works in enamel and gold leaf on wood, metal, or glass. It also included a companion catalogue featuring short interviews with each of the artists. In the week leading up the exhibition, a group of more than twenty international women sign painters designed and painted several murals on the exterior walls of the gallery. We also hosted a panel discussion/audience Q&A with the curators and select artists at the gallery.
The name of our movement—the Pre-Vinylette Society—is a tongue-in-cheek re-appropriation of the grammatical “ette” suffix, which typically denotes a female or smaller version of a male or more substantial (read: better) thing. As language is at the forefront of sign making, this movement allows for more women's, trans, and post binary voices to be heard than most historical and even recent surveys of the trade have acknowledged. By re-appropriating the “ette” formation, the womxn of the Pre-Vinylite Society assert their rightful place in the long tradition of sign painting and the lettering arts.
The 2017 exhibition and events were curated by Meredith Kasabian of Best Dressed Signs and Shelby Rodeffer of Finer Signs.
This exhibition was sponsored in part by Better Letters, Right Way Signs, W&B Gold Leaf, and Colossal Media. The murals are sponsored in part by Mack Brush Co.