The Poster Art in ‘The Art of Mondo’ Is Rich with Inventive and Clever Interpretations of Film

Tom Whalen's gorgeous use of color, Jeff Kleinsmith's arresting images, Jason Munn's minimalist designs, and Aaron Horkey's intricate lettering are only a few of the highlights here.

“At their best, Mondo posters convey the essence of what makes a great movie special, often more vividly than the well-known images originally crafted by the studios to introduce a film to the world.” (Brad Bird, Foreword)

The Art of Mondo, a compilation of Mondo’s movie posters in coffee table book form, is an excellent compendium of the variety of posters the Austin, Texas gallery produced in the last decade and more. An idea that began with screen-printed t-shirts and evolved into screen-printed posters and a full art gallery, Mondo has become a finely curated stop for movie classics of all stripes; cult, modern, and true cinematic landmarks all share space in the Mondo universe.

Mondo’s posters have been marked by a diverse group of talented artists — many of whom have found great success in their poster work, a staff of highly dedicated aficionados, and their limited poster runs. The latter is often the subject of great frustration for fans and collectors, as posters will often sell out in mere minutes, but The Art of Mondo may help ease some of that frustration. The book is large, glossy, and filled with full-page, and even several pullout recreations of some of Mondo’s most iconic releases.

Instrumental to Mondo’s success has been the incredibly high level of talent that’s been a part of the venture since its early days. By seeking out and cultivating relationships with specific artists, Mondo has created its own aesthetic. Artists such as Olly Moss, Tyler Stout, Rich Kelly, Laurent Durieux, Aaron Horkey, Daniel Danger, and many others, have all found a place in Mondo’s history.

Some artists distill a movie into a single representative image, such as Jay Ryan’s posters for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Sixteen Candles, while others, such as Stout, fill a poster to the edges with characters and scenes from the movies. Still others play with imagery to cleverly hide or include double meanings in their posters. Whether Durieux is hiding the shark’s fin in an umbrella in his Jaws poster, or Moss sneaks a gun on a helmet in his Robocop poster, all these artists thoughtfully represent their movies in clever ways.

Instrumental to Mondo’s success has been its decision to hire artists to help run the business. Rob Jones and Jay Shaw (“I credit Mondo as the single biggest factor in my success as an artist.”) have all served tenures working for Mondo and their connection to the work has been key to continuing to grow Mondo’s artistic vision. The addition of Mitch Putnam, whose own OMG Posters got the book treatment recently, has also been an integral part of Mondo’s success. Putnam’s focus on gig posters gave him an already established connection to many artists who would also create posters for Mondo.

Mondo has also sought out lucrative partnerships with Lucasfilm and Disney. The myriad interpretations that exist in the officially licensed Lucasfilm and Disney posters speak to the talent and creativity of those involved. One of the most stunning pullouts in the book depict the original Star Wars trilogy posters as imagined by Stout and Moss. The differences between the two are striking; one busy, one minimalist, one filled with realistic portraits, one with representative silhouettes. Similarly, Tom Whalen’s Disney posters are bright, colorful tributes to the originals that pay homage to Disney’s animation, while also retaining his own sensibility. When contrasted with Kelly or Francisco Francavilla’s darker, more stylized Disney posters, the variety in interpretation is beautifully demonstrated.

Mondo’s emphasis is on little-seen cult exploitation and horror films, along with the aforementioned Lucasfilm and Disney movies and director-heavy series. Those who flock to Mondo posters (apart from the pesky resellers) are true fans of the films chosen while also fans of the artists. Whether creating posters for Hitchcock masterpieces like Rear Window and Vertigo, or horror and sci-fi classics like Dracula and Planet of the Apes, or ’80s standouts like The Goonies, Mondo has tapped into a culture that places them all on equal footing.

The egalitarian nature of the movies chosen belies the highly curated decisions behind the scenes. Little known or popularly nostalgic, the movies are carefully chosen to appeal to a deceptively discriminating audience, while also championing and legitimizing specific movies that may have been written off by critics or the general public. Indeed, understanding how the pairing of film and artist come together is integral to Mondo’s success.

If there is one criticism of Mondo’s choices for the book its the almost complete lack of women artists. Anne Benjamin’s Ducktales, Jessica Seamans’ Mood Indigo (under the Landland name), and the We Buy Your Kids collective (of which Biddy Maroney is one half) posters are the only ones featuring the work of women. There’s no lack of talented female graphic artists (Teagan White, Becky Cloonan, Nan Lawson, Erica Williams, Diana Sudyka, to name a few) — some of whom have done work for Mondo — and their absence in this collection is noticed.

The Art of Mondo is a spectacular collection of art by some of the best contemporary graphic artists working today. There’s no shortage of beautifully crafted posters, lovingly recreated for the book. Whalen’s gorgeous use of color, Jeff Kleinsmith’s arresting images, Jason Munn’s minimalist designs, and Horkey’s intricate lettering are only a few of the highlights. Filled with inventive and clever interpretations, the stunning The Art of Mondo is essential for film and poster fans alike.

RATING 9 / 10