Spring 2005

Up against the wall

Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion

By Paul Grushkin & Dennis King Foreword by Wayne Coyne
Chronicle Books, US$60

The vibrating colours and illegible lettering of late psychedelic concert posters were part of the graphic language of the 1960s’ sex, drugs and rock’n’roll ethos. But hippie style was ultimately supplanted by 1970s punk: an aggressive, anarchic, graphic sensibility that was a calculatingly clumsy hodgepodge of cut and paste, borrowed and appropriated, photocopied graphics that were as violent as psychedelia was peaceful.

Punk design has proved more durable than its predecessor, due to its wide range of raucous comic styles and bizarre typographies, as well as its homage to passé fashions and use of parody to convey moods and anti-establishment attitudes. But the main reason for the continued popularity of gig posters may be the extinction of the LP album cover: gig posters not only advertise, but ‘logo-ise’ their subjects, helping to define the music.

Highly collectable, more easily displayed than CD artwork, posters serve both as a mnemonic for the band and as an emblem of fan loyalty. This book features the leading studios and artists, including Frank Kozik, Art Chantry and Digital Toolbox.

Organised by artist, Art of Modern Rock is designed for poster fans and could benefit from more critical analysis, yet it does offer a historical account of the various genres.

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