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Signs of New Orleans 

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New Orleanians may be familiar with award-winning graphic designer Tom Varisco and his labor of love, Desire. For years, he's produced the short (generally eight to 16 pages) journal of missives on New Orleans subjects, with over-the-top design and fanciful text treatment. It's often a serendipitous find among the city's many free publications. After Hurricane Katrina, Varisco created a chapbook of fridge poetry, Spoiled, which included photos of junked refrigerators sprayed with messages, jokes and aphorisms. The American Institute of Graphic Arts selected it as one of the top 50 design books in the nation in 2006. Varisco took a more ambitious step with the recent release, Signs of New Orleans, another brilliantly colored, heavily designed book depicting famous business signs, posted menu boards, found messages and more. There's everything from the Blue Plate mayonnaise sign to the dormant marquee of Kolb's to the tiled entrance of Napoleon House. It features the photography of Jackson Hill and short essays by John Biguenet, Anne Gisleson and longtime Desire collaborator Nick Marinello. The design is vibrant and pleasingly frenetic as one turns the pages, though some of the accompanying caption/commentary is overdone. Varisco signs copies of the book at Ogden After Hours. (The musical guest for the evening is Mississippi bluesman Kenny Brown, who played in R.L. Burnside's band for 26 years.) Tickets $10, free for Ogden members. — Will Coviello

6 p.m.-8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 18

Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 569-9600;


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