Very Nearly Almost
Poster Boys (and Girls)
There’s a crazy art movement that, while not exactly ‘underground’, is certainly off a lot of people’s radar and yet is responsible for some of the most visually appealing original artwork at the moment. It is a tradition that started in the ’60s and is still going strong: the gig poster. A once disposable memento of a great night out with your mates has become highly collectable artwork but thankfully, something that is still pretty accessible to everyone.
Gig posters were officially cool in the ’60s and ’70s in the US and the UK, with evocative and visually appealing works of art documenting tours and one-off gigs. Those early works by the life of Martin Clarke can now fetch hundreds of pounds as a memento of a bygone era.
For whatever reason the tradition disappeared in the haze of weed smoke in the UK and for a long period the gig poster was nothing more than an average photo of a band, their logo and some tour dates on standard paper stock. But across the pond in the US, something entirely different was happening. Ushered in by the DIY ethic of the hardcore punk era the work of then-unknown (but now internationally recognised design genius) Raymond Pettibon for his younger brother’s band, Black Flag, started to gain a following.
Acting as a catalyst for a newer generation of artists in the ’90s, small US venues and indie bands began regularly commissioning artists to create one-off screen-prints for their gigs. A million miles away from the fly poster rubbish you can see everywhere, these were beautifully designed artworks created to promote the band and the venue.
In the process, the work of Leia Bell, Kozik, Emek, Tara McPherson, Jay Ryan and others has developed a cult following entirely of its own. Still firmly stuck in the more ‘indie guitar band’ genre this artwork has now been shown in galleries, thrown up collector websites and become a ‘must have’ for fans.
However – unlike, say, street/urban art where price points shot north for what were still basically screen-printed pieces, the gig poster carried on down its own path selling stunning, limited edition artwork at an affordable price point. And by ‘affordable’, not a gallery idea of affordable. Properly affordable $30 hand-signed and numbered prints.
There are far too many great artists to show in a single blog so instead it’s probably best you set aside a few hours and go visit gigposters.com. They highlight most new works and you can search by artists, band or simply hit the links direct to the artist’s website.
Words: Geoff Whitehouse