Saturday, October 20, 2018


The art of promoting rock concerts

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Artist Adam Turman was inspired by Veruca Salt's song "Seether" to create this "Betty Crocker gone bad" poster. (Image courtesy of MCAD)
A new exhibit at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design looks at the art of promoting rock concerts. "Graphic Noise" is a show of modern rock posters, which are quickly replacing the coveted record album covers of yesteryear.

Minneapolis, Minn. — The MCAD art gallery is plastered from floor to ceiling with posters of every size and color. Elvis Costello, The Pixies, Catpower, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blondie, Dillinger Escape Plan, Duran Duran. The images run the gamut, from babes to birds to little strange monsters.

Some posters emulate the arts and crafts movement, others pay homage to pop art, but they all share one goal -- to get you in the door of a music club. Curator Kristin Makholm says it's cheap art, and she's proud.

"This is art meant to advertise," says Makholm. "It is meant to go up on a wall for a certain amount of time and be taken down. But that's the beauty of it. We can still find fabulous artistic expressions and be able to own them; it's not about how expensive it is."

Makholm calls these posters art for the people. The exhibit, on tour from the Atlanta Museum of Design, is sponsored in part by Minnesota Public Radio's new music station, The Current.

The show features close to 500 posters from eight countries; many of them are limited edition prints, crafted in someone's garage or basement.

One trio of posters advertises three different concert dates for the same band. One shows a happy family out on a picnic, another depicts a stampede of dinosaurs, and the third, a stampede of mechanical dinosaurs. Put the three posters in chronological order and you see that the monsters of both the past and the future are descending onto that innocent picnic. The name of the band? Widespread Panic.

Kristin Makholm says there have been rock posters as long as there's been rock and roll, but until recently the artistic energy was centered on LP album covers.

"Once the LP started dying out in the mid-1980s what did we have? We had CDs - little small things in plastic covers that never really generated the same kind of excitement or collectibility amongst the fans who were just crazy about the music," says Makholm. "And so the poster started filling that demand."

Makholm says new technology and innovations in design have emerged, creating an artistic playground for poster designers.

For the exhibition, MCAD assembled an ancillary show featuring the work of local artists like D-witt and Aesthetic Apparatus. This is where the MCAD students tend to lurk; checking to see if they were at a particular concert, or if their favorite band is on the walls.

Micah Dahl grew up in Fargo playing in bands. He's now studying film at MCAD. He says the show's a bit overwhelming.

"The details and the artistic qualities that are presented are amazing - I could just stand here for days and look at all of them in awe," says Dahl.

For a recent Veruca Salt concert at First Ave. in Minneapolis, artist Adam Turman drew a poster in red, black and white, with a rather sumptuous looking Betty Crocker offering up a cherry pie. Turman says it was inspired by the song Seether, which talks about fighting down your inner demons.

"Here we have Betty Crocker baking a crowbar and a file -- like so as to break someone out of jail -- in the pie," says Turman. "And Betty Crocker always stands for me for something that's good and pure and happy, so throwing in something that's a little wrong makes sense, as far as rock and roll goes."

Turman says not many artists make a living creating rock posters. But curator Kristin Makholm wonders if their posters might not be valuable collectors' items in the years to come.

"You think back and think, 'Gosh, I should have been around when the Toulouse Lautrec posters were going up on the kiosks of Paris and were being torn down to be replaced by something else.' Can you only imagine if someone had known then what we know now?" says Turman.

MCAD is hosting an opening party Friday Jan. 20 for Graphic Noise, with performances by local bands The STNNNG and The Deaths. The show runs through Feb. 19.