Gig Posters: Volume 2

Gig Posters volume 2

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I must confess that before I sat down to read Gig Posters: Volume 2, that particular art form confounded me a bit. I didn’t really understand the idea behind most gig posters I saw, which seemed to be total non-sequiturs when compared with the band being promoted by the work (“what does this picture of a drunk man in a canoe have to do with Okkervil River?”). I was hoping Gig Posters would elucidate the creativity behind these pieces and give me a window into this ever-growing niche at the intersection of art, design and music.

As far as I’m concerned, then, it’s mission accomplished for Gig Posters: Volume 2. In this book, 101 selected artists who work in the medium explain their methods, their influences, what they think of the burgeoning gig poster scene and even where they were educated (if they were at all). To an outsider like myself, it’s fascinating. I always enjoy coming to think about foreign things in new ways, and that’s what this book did for me. It offers glimpses into the creative process behind these posters (both mental and physical) and even a bit of insight into the industry that connects the artists contained herein. I suppose I could have figured out for myself, if I had taken the time, that many of these posters are created based off impressions the featured band gives the poster creator. That leads to some truly unique (and occasionally bizarre) bits of free-associative art that can defy literal classification but look totally sweet. Often, it turns out, gig posters prize form over function, and that’s cool.

As a comic nerd, I particularly enjoyed seeing the artists spotlighted here talk about the various cultural aspects that feed into their work. When a few early on in the book name-checked comics (either generally or specific examples) I thought it was pretty interesting, but after awhile I almost started to expect comic book artists to come up in each entry. I was especially happy to see that two of the artists here cited Swamp Thing co-creator Bernie Wrightson by name, and one even singled out Michael Golden’s GI Joe Yearbook #2, which seems like a terribly specific reference and makes me really want to look up that issue (incidentally, that artist, Clinton Reno, has a super-cool Cake poster in the book that looks like it could’ve come straight from a panel of the GI Joe comic).

The selection of artists here covers a lot of diverse ground, both creatively and geographically. As a Chicago kid, I was happy to see my home city represented so well (and I went to at least one of these shows!), but it’s only one of many cities feeding into the rich gig poster scene. The variety here gives us artists with a fascination for abstract geometry and those who love complex, grotesque figures; there are some heavily influenced by MAD Magazine and skater culture and others who ape Bill Watterson pretty handily. There’s a company in here that’s been in the entertainment poster business since 1879, and many artists who got their start as little as two years ago. As someone who ought to pay more attention to the visual aspect of the things he enjoys, especially comic books (I can’t help it, I’m a writer by trade!) I thought this book provided a pretty handy crash-course on different styles that various artists merge together to create some exciting stuff.

Of course my real job here isn’t to critique individual artists as much as it is to talk about the book itself. And man, Gig Posters: Volume 2 is tremendous. Its oversized 14″ x 11″ trim more closely approximates (or outright matches) the original dimensions of these posters than a standard-sized book would, allowing for the art on display to really shine. Best of all, each page here is perforated; the book’s designed explicitly for you to remove posters you like, frame them and hang them up. In addition to being a primer on a fascinating industry, then, Gig Posters: Volume 2 is a straight-up poster book with 101 different images for you to enjoy. Not bad for $40.

Truth be told, Gig Posters: Volume 2 came in the mail at a good time for me. I’ve been doing some serious redecorating in my house, and I find many a wall begging for some new ornamentation. As I went through this book, I took notes of which posters I enjoyed the most, and you better believe that as soon as this review goes live I’m going to start figuring out the best way to put some of them them up. Soon visitors to my house will be greeted by promotional images for the New Pornographers, Neko Case, Coheed & Cambria, Slayer, Flight of the Conchords and even alt-comedian Neil Hamburger. Buying art to fill that same space would likely have cost hundreds… and it definitely wouldn’t have rocked as hard.

tags: clay hayes, gig posters

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  • mr_reno

    “looks like it could’ve come straight from a panel of the GI Joe comic” is a huge compliment. Thank you.

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