With new release Travel Book Route 66, iconic fashion house Louis Vuitton adds another chapter to the story of America’s most famous highway.
If anything epitomizes the freewheeling, escapist attitude of summer, it’s the great American road trip—and if one road captures that romantic zeal, it’s U.S. Route 66. Perfect timing, then, for the release of Louis Vuitton’s Travel Book Route 66, in which lauded comic book artist Thomas Ott (Cinema Panopticum, Dead End) memorializes his three-week journey along the historic highway from Chicago to Santa Monica.
“I’m [a] very positive [person], but where there’s a light, there’s a shadow,” explains Ott of his aesthetic approach to the project, which swaps rose-colored nostalgia for the stark realism of austere, black-and-white scratchboard engravings. “Maybe the thing about Route 66 is this sadness you feel [knowing] that, once, there were great hotels [and] life, and then suddenly, because there is a freeway, everything breaks down.”
Ott’s compendium of roadside motels, lonely diners and pregnant landscapes makes for weighty scenes that indicate the artist’s self-confessed love for American film noir—yet at the same time they’re tempered with a levity unique to the highway’s quirky universe: In one scene, Ott’s fictitious traveler studies the Gemini Giant at the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, Ill. (just one of many scenes from the Prairie State); later, in Amarillo, Texas, he samples a scorpion candy before taking in the fantastical Cadillac Ranch art installation.
“I was choosing objects or places with my eyes, with the camera, [that were] interesting visually to show this lost America [and] the beauty of the landscape,” Ott remarks. Its heyday may be in the rearview mirror, but Route 66’s legacy remains a real page-turner. $56, Louis Vuitton, 919 N. Michigan Ave., 312.944.2010
Photography by: ALL PHOTOS © LOUIS VUITTON MALLETIER/THOMAS OTT