The meaning of signs


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A visitor’s eyes will often see-lect what a native passes over in familiarity and neglect. Such is the case in "Signs of Detroit," Sheila Cohen’s fine show (at the Old Coffee Shoppe) of color photographs of street signs in Detroit and Dearborn. Cohen, originally a London, Englander, takes a mostly minimalist approach to her subjects, letting the deep blue skies of southeast Michigan set up a resonant contrast with still-brilliant though weathered reds, blacks, yellows and whites of commercial sign survivors from the ’50s, ’60s and beyond. The best of these works — "Dearborn Car Wash," "Miller’s Bar," "Donut Palace Drive Thru" and "Puritan Electric 15500" (pictured) — have a stark concentration, making us realize that the beauty they reveal has "been here all along" (a classic effect of great photographs). Cohen’s "Star Motel," which took Honorable Mention in the Metro Times 1999 Photo Awards, is here too, with its lonely street poetry, its out-of-time aura. The Old Coffee Shoppe's hours are 4 p.m. to midnight. Stop by for a cup and a look.