If you want something done right, do it yourself. That was Matt Terich's motivation when he started designing posters to promote shows for...
If you want something done right, do it yourself.
That was Matt Terich’s motivation when he started designing posters to promote shows for his band, the Senate Arcade.
When he attended Flatstock 3, a rock-poster exhibition at Bumbershoot two years ago, Terich was floored by how far poster artists from around the country were able to stretch the two-dimensional format.
“I was impressed with the creativity of all of it and the breadth of styles represented,” says Terich. “Everything was so colorful and vivid. I never wanted to use a photocopier ever again.”
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Within a year, Terich had turned this inspiration into creation. He became an accomplished screen printer with a substantial portfolio of poster art — enough to be an official Flatstock participant himself.
Terich and his design partner, Mike Klay of Synesthetic Studio, will join about 60 poster artists from across the nation at next weekend’s Bumbershoot for Flatstock 7. This semiannual convention, presented by the American Poster Institute, is a vibrant celebration of music-poster art and design. Designers and illustrators — including those from seven Seattle-area studios — will showcase thousands of posters, handbills and fliers at Fisher Pavilion, giving fans the rare opportunity to purchase frame-worthy limited-edition poster art directly from the artists.
what: A rock-poster exhibit presented by the American Poster Institute. About 60 designers and illustrators will showcase their work for exhibition and purchase.
when: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Monday
where: Fisher Pavilion, Seattle Center
cost: Free with a Bumbershoot ticket — $28 per day.
Many of the monsters of rock-poster design, including Frank Kozik, Emek, Tara McPherson and Jay Ryan, will display their work alongside local design heroes Patent Pending Industries, 33rpm, Asterik Studio, The Heads of State, Brad Klausen and Justin Hampton. Collectively, the artists represent a mix of the cult and commercial, the famous and soon-to-be famous, with styles ranging from slick and digital to rough and handcrafted.
To design geeks, the poster artist wields as much star power as the musicians they promote.
A rock-poster explosion
Both the production and popularity of the rock poster, in recent years, have been cranked up to an 11. In the MP3 age, the music experience no longer comes with memorabilia. Absent an album cover, “a poster is a timeless piece of art to associate with your favorite artist,” says Jeff Kleinsmith, a designer working under the studio name Patent Pending Industries, and organizer of Flatstock 7.
The Internet and online communities have helped fuel rock-poster proliferation. On the popular Web site GigPosters.com, poster artists from around the world post their work for mass viewing and engage in lively, no-holds-barred discussions on all things music and design.
“GigPosters.com has connected so many people in the poster world via the Internet that it’s ridiculous,” says Justin Hampton, a Seattle poster artist who has been working in the scene since 1990. “From fans to pros, everyone drops by that site to check out the latest and get their two bits in.”
Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion
What: Rock-poster exhibit from the collection of Dennis King, co-author of “Art of Modern Rock,” with the work of more than 300 poster artists from around the world. From noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Monday, with an opening reception 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, in the Olympic Room, Seattle Center Northwest Rooms.
Details: Free Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Included with Bumbershoot admission Friday-Monday.
As a result, the Minneapolis scene influences Montreal, and ideas from San Francisco infiltrate Salt Lake City.
Paul Grushkin and Dennis King documented this poster explosion in their 2004 book, “Art of Modern Rock” (Chronicle Books, $75). At 487 pages, this holy book of rock-poster art is coffee-table-crushing proof of the 21st-century print-making renaissance. Today’s poster artists have harnessed the energy of ’60s psychedelic prints and mixed in the DIY ethos of ’80s punk, all in the medium of modern digital technology.
The Seattle aesthetic
Seattle’s spot at the apex of the worldwide poster scene belies the city’s size. For residents of Seattle — a city riddled with graphic designers — high design standards are as much a part of our heritage as our collective terror at recollections of J.P. Patches.
“We are extremely proud to be part of the poster movement. We feel like Seattle has had a huge hand in shaping that,” says Don Clark, a poster artist working for Asterik Studio. “There are a lot of amazing designers in this city that helped pave the way for this movement, and we are just happy to be mentioned in the same breath.”
Local poster artists universally credit the cranky yet brilliant Art Chantry for raising Seattle’s design standards.
Chantry, the outspoken graphic artist working in Seattle in the ’80s and ’90s, was immortalized in the 1996 film “Hype!” for shredding a stack of collectible early-Seattle punk-show fliers with a paper cutter. Chantry takes a zealously low-tech approach to design, often appropriating images from pop culture in a gritty, humorous way.
“Art Chantry established a regional aesthetic,” says Andrio Abero, a local poster artist who works under the name 33rpm. “That aesthetic helped propel the Northwest music scene.”
Somewhat counterintuitively, another force that shaped Seattle’s poster scene was the 1994-2002 ban on street postering. Before the ban, music acts were promoted via black-and-white photocopied fliers, stapled in multiples to telephone poles throughout the city. Following the postering crackdown, however, many designers were forced to redirect their efforts, producing smaller print runs of higher quality color screen-printed posters. They had a limited viewing audience: people at music venues and in record stores and cafes.
“That screen-printing aesthetic stuck,” says Kleinsmith. “You don’t go back to Yuban after drinking Starbucks.”
Buying at Flatstock
The modest show poster quickly evolved from a source of information to fetish commodity. Nowadays, a limited-edition screen-printed rock poster is less advertising and more art object for hipsters in the know. And Flatstock is the avenue to ownership.
“Flatstock is a really inexpensive way to get art into your house,” says Terich, of Synesthetic Studio. “Where else can you get a high-quality screen print for $20?”
Artists’ booths are situated at random, so you are likely to find delicate letterpress Modest Mouse prints next to sinister Slayer show posters.
Serious collectors are encouraged to arrive early Saturday — limited-edition posters are, well, limited, and sell out.
And lastly, talk to the artists. “Don’t be intimidated,” says Kleinsmith. “This is a great opportunity to see the craft and ask questions.”
Boo Davis, Seattle Times staff artist: firstname.lastname@example.org