Pete's Ice Cream Ely, Nevada

by John Margolies

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Artist Statement

Margolies’ American roadtrips captured images of novelty architecture: the quirky, charming buildings he saw disappearing. His images were stark, deliberate, and colorful. His use of slide film lent to richer colors and more contrast, and his choice to shoot on clear, sunny days helped eliminate any visual distraction. 


These road trips culminated in Margolies’ Roadside America collection, an archive of 100,000 miles and over 30 years of photographs—a toast to endearingly eccentric advertising and the waning art of the American pitstop.

Why We Love It

In Pete’s Ice Cream Ely, Nevada, a perfectly groomed pile of snowy vanilla sits atop what looks like a wafer cone. The giant confection is traced in a track of neon lights, but as with Gary’s Thick Shakes it was photographed during daylight—Margolies preferred to shoot on clear, sunny days to limit visual distraction. The slightly askew cone echoes the sense of movement in the wisps of cloud in the sky behind, giving the sign a strange celestial presence, like a hovering deity of dairy. If it weren’t for the pole and the peek of tree tops Margolies thoughtfully snuck in at the bottom, Pete’s Ice Cream might err on the surreal ... Read more on the blog!

Details

+ Limited-edition, exclusive to 20x200
+ Museum quality: archival inks, 100% cotton rag paper unless noted
+ Handcrafted custom-framing is available

Our quoted dimensions are for the size of paper containing the images, not the printed image itself. We do not alter the aspect ratio, nor do we crop or resize the artists’ originals. All of our prints have a minimum border of .5 inches to allow for framing.

Medium:

Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta

 Edition Structure:
10"x8" | edition of 10
14"x11" | edition of 250
20"x16" | edition of 25
30"x24" | edition of 10

John Margolies

Margolies was drawn to mid-century roadside architecture from a young age. On family car trips, these commercial structures designed to seduce weary travelers called to him even as his parents repeatedly refused to stop. Margolies took this boyhood unrequited love and turned it into a 30+ year photography career that took him all across America.In his travels, Margolies took more than 11,000 photographs of vernacular buildings across America’s criss-crossing network of highways, main streets, and back roads. Though many of his images involved the architecture that defined car travel—motels, diners, gas stations, and the like—he also photographed the purely American... Read More
quirk that lined the roads: buildings shaped like dinosaurs, a giant pair of dice on the mini-golf course, a gator-mouth entrance to a Florida theme park.This eccentric style came about as suburban living boomed post-World War II, necessitating the creation of more paved roads, and more ways to bring travelers into roadside businesses. New building materials and techniques had emerged, allowing for playfully eccentric free-form structures to pop up. Signs, artifacts, and buildings ranged from whimsical to psychedelic, their main purpose an elaborate enticement. As the style spread, critics derided it as “tacky”, “florid”, and “ugly”. Margolies strongly disagreed: in his mind, these ephemeral pieces better expressed the story of 20th century America than canonical works that didn’t reflect the everyday experience of the people who used them.It was this mindset that inspired Margolies to drive over 100,000 miles capturing a unique slice of American architecture and history, even as it faded. Much of what he photographed is now gone. A few times, he found out that he’d photographed a building mere days before it was demolished.His treasure trove of images has been turned into quite a few books, most notably Roadside America, featuring a curated set of around 400 photographs. It was published in 2010, six years before Margolies passed away of pneumonia at 76.
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