The Power of Print

'OMG Posters'

by J.M. Suarez

16 December 2016

Poster art is in a renaissance right now; OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art proves why.
Poster for a Spoon concert from OMG Posters 
cover art

OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art

Mitch Putnam

(Regan Arts)
US: 11 Oct 2016

“For this book, I’ve decided to focus solely on concert posters. They are a completely unique art form—drawn, printed (many by hand), hung, and sold to commemorate a one-night event in a single city. It’s hard to get more niche than that. So it’s surprising that these posters are often done by some of the world’s most talented illustrators and designers.”
—Mitch Putnam

“If my work only lived digitally, I don’t think I would be interested in making it. Honestly, the printing is what brings each piece to life.”
—Jason Munn

“I’ve always been drawn to art that had text on it.”
—Emek

OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art, like much of the art contained within its covers, makes an immediate statement. An oversized book in paperback form, it smartly uses its size to convey the power of the printed poster. Throughout the book, Mitch Putnam, founder of the site OMG Posters and curator of the book, and artists repeatedly make the point that seeing the posters online is no comparison to seeing them in full-sized printed form. So while the art itself is showcased, the poster format is also celebrated.

Olly Moss, one of the most successful and recognizable talents in poster art today, writes in a foreword that he’d never really been drawn to posters until he was offered work by Putnam six years ago. It was in seeing the caliber of work that already existed in the medium that he realized it’s “A test of everything: color, composition, communication, typography, and draftsmanship.” It’s almost impossible to imagine that Moss’ creative talents may not have included poster work if not for Putnam—though he now notes it’s his “best-loved form of design”—yet Moss stands as an excellent example of why poster art is as dynamic and striking as any other art form.

The book is divided by artist, opening with the same four questions posed to all, and then a portfolio-like selection of each artist’s work. The questions cover influences, early projects, the creative process, and what attracts these artists to do this kind of work. They’re standard questions that still manage to reveal a great deal, especially when taken as a whole. Influences run the gamut from Robert Crumb to Saul Bass to René Magritte; similarly, the styles represented are as varied and distinct. Answers are sometimes sarcastic, sometimes serious, but always convey something about the creator that also comes through in the art.

The work displayed is smart and thoughtful, choices that represent the artists chosen well, and also point to the level of creativity allowed in the medium. Brian Ewing is one artist who notes that freedom is part of what draws him to making posters. Having few restrictions, apart from format and the need to include specific concert information, allows for a much looser and inspired process that results in a true commitment to the work, and ultimately comes through in the finished product.

The question on the creative process is of particular interest as several artists mention taking the time to become familiar with the band or artist they’re creating for. Making that kind of visceral link between subject and artist is what makes so many of the posters connect beyond the informational advertising aspect. As certain artists develop relationships, a unique visual language is created, such as in Jay Ryan’s work with Andrew Bird. Ryan’s whimsical animals are a perfect complement to Bird’s own imaginative and fanciful music.

Interestingly, the idea to focus on concert posters brings to the fore the work of several artists more well-known for their movie and television poster work. Artists such as Aaron Horkey, Tom Whalen, and Tyler Stout have carved out a place in reimagining films and TV shows such as ‘80s classics, horror films, and Disney and Pixar movies. Their work in representing bands is just as imaginative and expressive, including a level of detail that belies the traditional one-off poster or flyer tradition that many may be more familiar with.

In fact, Putnam has been instrumental in re-infusing poster art with the kind of enthusiasm and energy that’s made fans rabid to collect limited releases and make books like this one possible. The level of artistry that’s consistently on display is wonderfully eclectic—from the hyper-realistic to the cartoon-inspired to the minimalist design—yet the connecting theme of concert posters is useful in highlighting these differences to beautiful effect.

OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art is more than a coffee table book, but rather it’s an excellent introduction to some of the most influential and respected artists in the field. It’s also a terrific sampling of some truly gorgeous art that, as artist Dan Grzeca mentions, is affordable to many. The care that obviously went into putting together the book and choosing the art pays off beautifully in showcasing posters in as close to actual form as possible. Poster art is in a renaissance right now; OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art proves why.

OMG Posters: A Decade of Rock Art

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