Tag Archives: poster

Fresh Start

After months on the hunt, we’re finally signing the lease on a brand new apartment! We’ll be moving to Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward District, walking distance from an array of art galleries and great new restaurants. We won’t be moving for a couple of months, but we’re already starting to evaluate just how much stuff we have between us, sorting what will make the cut, and what will be hauled to the curb—a task we ignored when we moved into our current apartment, our attention instead focused upon wedding planning. I’m attempting to take on one organizing project at a time leading up to the move, but at the moment, it’s feeling a lot like I’m immersed in one of Simon Evans’ overwhelming works—

Simon Evans, Everything I Have, 2008, Pen, paper, scotch tape, white out, 60 1/4 X 40 1/8 inches

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The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, Part 4

Part 4: A Transforming Tradition

The expansion of the gig-poster community has led to the transformation of the poster form itself, its distribution methods and sales practices altered to fit the growing demand for the works. From the emergence of the poster print during the late nineteenth century, collectors have sought the handcrafted works, each print an “extraordinary [document] of popular culture,” “the spirit of places or events”(Wrede, The Modern Poster, 14). The ability of gig-poster prints to evoke memories of specific times and places, sometimes underground events of sub-cultural formations not otherwise documented, has initiated a contemporary surge of collectors. Noted cultural Historian, Neil Harris, describes the appeal of poster prints to individuals of sub-cultural groups as well as mainstream culture: “With their transient political references and commercial specificity, posters as collectibles carry a certain cachet as rescued fragments of a lost past, while their stylistic verve associates current owners with the talents of underappreciated and sometimes anonymous artists. The thrill of rediscovering the obscure and recalling the forgotten is compelling”(Harris, “Poster Collecting: A Fitful History,” 35). No longer proof of one’s participation in sub-cultural events, gig-posters are coveted by participants and simple observers alike, accessible to collectors who offer the highest bids. The popularity of screen-printed gig-posters is marked by the appearance of national poster conventions and websites in the past ten years, such as FLATSTOCK established in 2002, and websites GigPosters.com and ExpressoBeans, devoted to the sale, trade, and preservation of gig-posters. In addition to facilitating the formation of an international gig-poster community for artists, gig-poster websites have also bolstered the quantity of gig-poster collectors. The proliferation of collectors has in-turn inflated the value of the gig-poster form, individual works sought after for their connection to top designers, or musicians and performances of noteworthy significance. Eric Von Munz’s renowned 1999 vinyl screenprint for The White Stripes exemplifies this immense rise in value, originally given away free, yet now sold for approximately nine hundred to one thousand dollars a piece. Ownership of Von Munz’s sought-after print is no longer necessarily a badge of one’s attendance at The White Stripes’ Milwaukee debut, instead available to any online buyer who can afford the unique work. When artist Eric Von Munz first began producing print posters for visiting bands, the visual lures were created for the sole purpose of informing the local public of upcoming performances, posted in high-traffic pedestrian areas for greater impact. Yet, with increasing value and collectability of gig-posters, many designers neglect to post their screenprints prior to the gigs they supposedly promote, instead not visible until one’s arrival at the ‘advertised’ Rock concert. The public display of gig-posters has also been hindered by the implementation of ‘sign postage’ laws, as well as the removal of kiosks, during the past fifteen years, in cities throughout the United States, including Milwaukee. As a result, gig-poster artists have found themselves without public locations in which to actually post their posters. City of Milwaukee law dictates that “Signs erected or attached by nailing, fastening or affixing […] in any manner to trees, shrubs, posts, utility poles, natural features, official street signs, or traffic control signs,” (“15.14 Signs”) also known as snipe signs, are prohibited within all Milwaukee districts, considered congruent with graffiti and vandalism. Although illegal, sniping has continued within the gig-poster community, a practice established and upheld by print poster artists such as Von Munz, who emerged from the ‘Do-It-Yourself’ Punk scene. Von Munz asserts that screenprints that solely materialize at concert merchandise tables, cannot truly be defined as gig-posters:

“As a poster artist, that’s just product, that’s no different than a t-shirt, to me. Which is why I am so adamant, about putting my posters up. They have to be up, somewhere, maybe not a lot, but they have to be up somewhere. Somebody has to have the opportunity to get one that’s got staple holes in it”(Von Munz, Personal Interview, 2011).

Adamant in preserving the sniping tradition within the local gig-poster culture, Von Munz continues to post his prints along specific streets in Milwaukee. Von Munz describes the public presence of his gig-posters:

“My posters have a 24-hour life span, if that. If I put them on a pole, it’s gone. […] As a bicyclist I have an ace in the hole, I can put my posters up higher than anybody else, because I stand on my bike. At the same time I’ve had people say like, ‘yeah I saw that on the pole, I parked my car on the curb, and got on the top of it, to get it down’” (Von Munz, Personal Interview, 2011).

Over time Von Munz has developed methods to ensure a longer public presence for his posters, posting the prints at night, using glue or newsprint, amused by the knowledge that the works will simply rip if passersby try to remove them. The act of sniping, as well as fans’ initiative in collecting the sought after prints, have become central facets of the art form itself—distinguishing the prints as sub-cultural creations, objects of communication for ‘underground’ musicians and their followers. The Little Friends of Printmaking recall the importance of their posters’ public appearance as well, witnesses to the removal of the kiosks which dotted State Street, the “main drag” in Madison, Wisconsin:

“We were walking to go vote one day, and we saw them putting up our posters for a Death from Above show, and […] so we voted and we started coming back, they were all gone […] That was a way that we knew that people were able to see them, and now it’s like where do you put posters? […] it gets harder and harder, because obviously some of these things like Sonic Youth and Guided by Voices, they don’t really need to promote their show, but when we were starting out we were making stuff for bands that really did need to promote their show” (The Little Friends of Printmaking, Personal Interview, 2011).

Von Munz
Spoon with Jay Reatard, 2009
Screenprint, ed. 27/50

Casey Burn
Spoon and Jay Reatard, 2009
Three-color screenprint, ed. 115/200

The restrictions placed upon public posting have dramatically altered the role of the gig-poster from advertisement to product. The majority of Indie Rock bands today feature a gig-poster at their merchandise table, amongst record albums, t-shirts and pins—a print poster by a different artist sold at each concert, or each city visited during a tour. While demonstrative of a greater respect for gig-posters within the music world, many posters never grace the local streets, a change that has sparked the question among poster print artists, ‘are prints which are never posted truly gig-posters?’

Von Munz found himself faced with this very question after designing a poster for the 2009 performance of Spoon, with an opening performance by Jay Reatard, duly posted throughout Milwaukee before the New Year’s Eve show at the Riverside Theater. Two weeks after the concert, Garage Rock musician Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., better known as Jay Reatard met his untimely death, making the musician’s Milwaukee performance his last. Following the musician’s death, poster artist Casey Burns’ screen-print poster for Reatard’s performance, sold at band merchandise tables but supposedly never publicly posted leading up to the show, became known as the last gig-poster created for a Jay Reatard concert. The battle for recognition raged in poster chat forums on GigPosters.com, as poster print artists debated which gig-poster should receive the valuable label of ‘Last Jay Reatard Poster.’ The debate has reached no consensus, artists and collectors alike in continual disagreement of what constitutes a true gig-poster, the simple inclusion of a band name, date and place? Or must a poster be displayed in public leading up to the advertised show? The Little Friend’s JW greatly laments the shift in gig-poster culture:

“Concert posters […] contribute to the feeling of an authentic local scene. They don’t just sit on a merch table, seen only by the people who are already inside the venue. It might seem like a weird distinction to make, but when I was a kid, seeing posters around town helped me decide what I music I was going to check out and what stuff I could avoid. And when you came to a town and they had cool posters hanging up on the street, you knew you were in a town that gave a shit” (Kollath, “The Poster Tube: Little Friends of Printmaking,” Muzzle of Bees, June 23, 2010).

Though gig-posters no longer plaster the streets of the city, the online presence of Milwaukee artists and their work has perhaps become the telephone poles and kiosks of today’s Milwaukee community. Contesting the views of husband and partner JW, Melissa contends, that the convenience of online information has perhaps eradicated the need of snipe signs:

“Nobody is finding out about a show by walking past a kiosk in 2010, just like nobody is calling a concert line and listening to an answering machine read off dates for ten minutes. We all relate to music differently now, and defining posters as merch is probably the best way to keep the culture of concert posters going. It’s not the same, but it’s good” (Kollath, “The Poster Tube: Little Friends of Printmaking,” 2010).

The removal of gig-posters from their role of advertisement has perhaps propagated the fine art status of the form—facilitating a greater respect for poster artists and their work from bands, promoters, and collectors.

Since the appearance of the Rock concert poster, the form has proved an unremitting visual account of its time—as much a fine art object, as a fundamental facet of Rock culture. The contemporary gig-poster reflects the sheer variety of Rock sub-genres that form the current Indie scene. The future of the distinct form is perhaps foreseeable in the movement of gig-posters from the street to merchandise tables, a trend which mirrors the growing emergence of ‘underground’ Indie bands into mainstream popular culture. Although many poster print artists such as Von Munz persevere in upholding the ‘street-roots’ of the gig-poster, the acceptance of the form’s contemporary direction has benefited many gig-poster artists in the proliferation of their designs throughout the world. The visibility of various artists’ designs has inspired the creation of new poster print artists, such as Milwaukee’s P. Chavez, whose work has risen to immense notoriety in just one year. She states:

“I think it’s really different when you see a poster that’s printed up at Kinko’s, versus something that’s been handmade, and kind of mulled over for hours and hours, days and days on end […] You just see peoples’ art work, you see the caliber of work that people are doing, and it’s really inspiring, you know, it really makes you contribute, be a part of it” (Chavez, Personal Interview, 2011).

Though an art form contingent upon the future development of Rock music, gig-posters remain true reflections of the community culture, capturing specific events and times within the city of Milwaukee, products of local artists with the genuine desire to contribute to the city’s musical and artistic culture.

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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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The Gig-Poster Explosion: Artists and Collectors of Milwaukee, Part 1

Part 1: Eric Von Munz

The city of Milwaukee has long played host to musical groups of varied notoriety, from underground acts to famed Pop bands. Yet, according to Milwaukee Magazine’s Kevin Kosterman, “by the late 1990s, that scene had lost its momentum. Rock-wise, Milwaukee began to look dead,” (Kosterman, “Rock Revival”) an observation confirmed by the closing of multiple clubs and underground music venues during this period. A founding figure of Milwaukee’s gig-poster scene and a celebrated local artist, Eric Von Munz first began producing gig-posters in response to Milwaukee’s negative reputation among visiting bands:

“For a while, Milwaukee had a really bad rap. In the time period, we only had a couple of venues […] the guy that ran Shank Hall, and then Gus, that ran the Unicorn, and they weren’t really known for their ability to pay out rock and roll bands. So, the bands would come here, they’d get stiffed by the club owners, and then they’d never want to come back to Milwaukee. Right around this time Garage Rock was coming in […] and these bands started heading to Milwaukee, […] Galaxy Trio, the Melvins. John and I were like, well shit, if these bands are coming to Milwaukee we don’t want them to have a bad time, they’re going to deal with these club owners who are going to be less than honorable. We wanted these bands to come back, we definitely wanted these bands to come back.” (Von Munz, personal interview, April 17, 2011)

In an effort to counter the substandard ethics of Milwaukee’s limited music venues, Von Munz and fellow Milwaukee artist John Hill, began producing concert posters for bands scheduled to visit Milwaukee venues, proposing: “If we can make these guys good posters, and say ‘hey thanks for coming to Milwaukee, sorry for Gus…but we think you’re awesome,’ maybe they’ll come back.” Von Munz created his first gig-poster in 1996, his work emerging in company with the early work of infamous Rock poster artists such as Frank Kozik and Lindsey Kuhn. In fact, Von Munz credits Frank Kozik in supplying his first lessons in screen-printing, calling the artist up one night for advice, as Kozik used to “publish his telephone number on the back of Juxtapoz,”(Von Munz) an underground contemporary art magazine established in 1994. Although Von Munz has gained knowledge of screen-printing methods throughout his career, the artist’s early work followed in the footsteps of the Punk fliers of the late 1970s and 1980s. Von Munz’s flier for the 1998 performance of the Hard Rock band Clutch, at Milwaukee’s Modjeska Theatre, was created on a three-color copier at the local Kinko’s copy shop. The small flier, printed in two separations of blue and red, features cut-and-paste imagery and text applied using rubber cement, an early example of Von Munz’s dedication to the bands represented, and the Milwaukee music scene. With the help of Von Munz’s hand-printed concert posters, Milwaukee began to shed its negative stigma. With the honorable intention of expanding Milwaukee’s music scene, Von Munz distributed his screen-printed posters to bands and promoters for little or no charge, his sole intention to improve the experience of those visiting Milwaukee, and perhaps catch a free show. Von Munz’s first substantial triumph in transforming Milwaukee’s substandard musical standing, was marked by his production of posters for The Mistreaters and The White Stripes at The Cactus Club, November 13, 1999, printed on discarded vinyl record albums.

The Mistreaters and The White Stripes, 1999

The Mistreaters and The White Stripes, 1999
Silkscreen on vinyl
12 x 12 in.

After printing the posters, at the prompting of Mistreaters vocalist, Christreater, Von Munz sent a copy to The White Stripes, the infamous band’s then unknown status allowing the printing of their home address on their first record. According to Von Munz:

“They were going to cancel the show, because they didn’t want to come to Milwaukee […] then they got the record in the mail, and Jack [White] opened it up, and he was like ah no, we gotta do this. So they packed up their Country Squire Station Wagon, and drove from Detroit to play at the Cactus Club […] They played and it was mind blowing, I met them, and they were like whenever we come back town, we want you to do our posters.” (Von Munz)

Von Munz happily fulfilled the band’s request, creating eight gig-posters for Jack White and his band-mates, before the disbandment of the group in 2011. Among these works are Von Munz’s ‘album poster,’ the first-ever silk-screened poster for The White Stripes, and the first silk-screened poster for a White Stripes headlining show in 2000. Von Munz’s 2000 poster for The White Stripes features striped peppermint candies cascading down across a vibrant green background, befitting their Saint Patrick’s Day performance at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee. The poster captures Von Munz’s characteristic use of vivid hues, reminiscent of 1960s concert posters, and sharply delineated forms, achieved through the use of Rubylith, a masking film which can be cut to create separation for various printing techniques, including screen-printing. Today the medium is rarely used, and difficult to obtain, made obsolete by current computer design technology, as Von Munz jokingly claims: “I’m the youngest, oldest Rubylith cutter you’ll ever meet.” Though abandoned by most designers, the medium allows Von Munz to create smooth curves within his gig-posters, unique amongst the digitally produced pixilated forms in many gig-posters today. With the help of Eric Von Munz, artists such as Jack White, ADULT, Eagles of Death Metal and the Queens Of The Stone Age, have returned to Milwaukee again and again, drawn to the city’s welcoming and enthusiastic community.

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


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2012 Summer Olympics

Hope you’re all enjoying the Opening Ceremonies!

Official posters for the London 2012 Olympic Games, commissioned from leading contemporary artists, Rachel Whiteread, Martin Creed, Howard Hodgkin, Chris Ofili, Bridget Riley, and Anthea Hamilton.

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