Tag Archives: Josh Rickun

The Gig-Poster Explosion Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, Part 3

Part 3: Josh Rickun

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Grushkin and King claim that the influx of graphic designers into the field has challenged the norms of gig-poster print design, bringing a new “minimalist academic approach” (Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion, 20) to the artistic form, accompanied by graphic or illustrative imagery, as well as a greater focus upon typography. Although fine art illustration and graphic design are often viewed as competing disciplines, Midwest-based artist Aaron Horkey’s horizontal print Bon Iver demonstrates the contemporary intermingling of the artistic branches.

Aaron Horkey
Bon Iver, 2009
Screenprint on French Speckletone Madero Beach paper, ed. of 75
23 ½ x 10 ½ in.

Horkey’s highly detailed line-work stands out against a solid muted background, the name ‘Bon Iver’ emerging from the paper in elegant typography, surrounded by delicate illustrative scrollwork. Unlike its predecessors of the 1960s and 1970s, Bon Iver applies negative and positive space in a balanced manner, utilizing negative space in highlighting illustrative detail, rather than aggressively filling the composition with imagery and text. Although the majority of contemporary gig-posters remain focused upon central imagery, typography has taken a new leading role within gig-poster prints, a product of the field’s recent influx of trained graphic designers. The contemporary utilization of typography demonstrates an immense range in style, with text designed specifically to compliment corresponding imagery, as seen in Horkey’s Bon Iver, or to create a poster’s imagery in itself, as visible in Lil Tuffy’s Pavement with No

Lil Tuffy
Pavement with No Age, 2010
Screenprint, ed. of 200
17 ½ x 23 in.

Age—where bold blue and red lettering are artfully arranged to convey the gig’s performers, location and date. Amongst the subdued and minimal works that have entered the poster print scene, are graphically chaotic works analogous to cut-and-paste fliers of the 1970s Punk scene. The complexly layered works of Milwaukee artist Josh Rickun reflect this inclination, each print often utilizing both found and original imagery, as visible in the 2010 screenprint Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s. Although the print appears chaotic, a found female portrait emerging from behind geometric spans of color, the work still demonstrates a designer’s understanding of compositional rhythm and balance. Rickun credits his attraction to found media to his childhood, stating: “I was raised by antique dealers. The basement of their shop has tens of thousands of magazines dating back to the 1800s. I grew up in a house decorated in cartoon posters and advertisements from the first half of the 20th century […] I usually get an idea and then start rummaging through old magazines. Sometimes I see something and know I’ve got to use it, and then the right band comes along and the image fits” (Hayes, Gig Posters: Rock Show Art of the 21st Century, 120).

 

[Excerpt from The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, by Kelly Brown]

 

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The Gig Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, Part 2

Part 2: The Little Friends of Printmaking

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[All images via The Little Friends of Printmaking]

Milwaukee’s husband and wife printmaking duo, Melissa and JW Buchanan, have gained international acclaim since the establishment of The Little Friends of Printmaking. Amongst their most famed designs is Fantômas, utilized as the difficulty screen for the well-known video game Guitar Hero. When first approached by a fan who worked at Harmonix, the original developers of Guitar Hero, Melissa and JW agreed to loan their image, though apprehensive as to the game’s future success: “we were like yeah sure, good luck with that. It sounded insane at the time, a video controller shaped like a guitar? Whatever.” The duo’s style is distinguished by the use of bursting illustrative compositions—intricate assemblages of objects and figures combined to visually embody the represented musicians. The printmakers’ 2010 gig-poster for comedic band Flight of the Conchords, depicts a multitude of colorful details representative of lyrical phrases, as well as moments from the musical pair’s HBO television show. Characters Jemaine and Bret peek out of their fabled New York apartment, a bodega down below selling magazines and various wares featuring lyrical references. Although The Little Friends’ gig-posters overwhelming favor a focus upon imagery, rather than text, the artists’ 2010 design Guided by Voices, features the band’s name, in thick curving typography, occupying the upper three-fourths of the composition. The designers’ deviation from their image-based prints, acts as an acknowledgement of the Indie Rock band’s lyrical focus, as well as songwriter Robert Pollard, dubbed one of the most productive songwriters in American history, releasing “nine albums and 11 EPs in the Nineties alone” (“Guided by Voices: Biography,” Rolling Stone). Whether depicting intricate imagery or bold typography, The Little Friends of Printmaking unfailingly demonstrate a true appreciation of the screenprint medium, visible in gig-posters such as the 2009 print Sonic Youth, created for the July 20th performance of the Sonic Youth at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom. Although Sonic Youth is a three-color print, the transparent nature of the silkscreen ink creates the appearance of about nine distinct hues, masterfully produced through the calculated printing of layers. The Little Friends have become a pillar within the growing Milwaukee gig-poster community, their edification of screenprint technique extending to fellow artists such as Josh Rickun, Milwaukee designer and illustrator and owner of the local t-shirt company Wiskullsin, as well as the wider community, through lectures and classes such as Inkblot Academy, Discovery World’s Print & Publishing Lab established and taught by Melissa and JW.

[Excerpt from The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, by Kelly Brown]

 

 

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