Rock posters still hanging around

Rock posters still hanging around
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Paint it black — and red, orange and purple.

Music, album covers and all, may have gone digital long ago, but rock and roll posters still employ a decidedly low-tech form: screen printing.

And a Brooklyn print shop is throwing an exhibition to give these old school East Coast poster designers some much-deserved love.

“I don’t know if it’s so much of a lack of recognition or a lack of community in New York regarding these posters,” said John O’Grady, one of the curators for the East Coast Art of Rock show at the Gowanus Print Lab. “But as far as getting together and knowing each others’ work, that doesn’t happen as much here. Your schedule fills up so much quicker here, so there’s less of a cohesive community in other areas. And that’s part of the reason for the show.”

O’Grady and the rest of the show’s organizers compiled 40 or so prints for the exhibition, showcasing poster art from East Coasters designed for bands like Galactic, Surfer Blood, Primus, Joan Jett, and Further.

And though screen-printed rock posters, which are usually associated more with Baby Boomers than YouTubers, may have reached their heydey in the 60s, with colorful psychedelic posters advertising concerts for groups like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Cream, the genre has a distinctly modern appeal.

“People really appreciate being able to see the hand of man — especially in such a digital age where people are locked up in a cubicle staring at computer screens each day,” said Ashley Hildreth, the co-founder of the Gowanus Print Lab, which opened in October 2010 and has been expanding ever since. “People who come to the print lab, are really happy to be able to break that.”

The show included the work of many Brooklyn designers, as the form has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the borough despite the challenges artists face to keep costs down.

“Rock posters have been around forever but it feels like they just get more and more popular,” said Mike Tabbie, who co-founded Two Arms Inc., a Greenpoint-based printing company, in 2009 and contributed a handful of posters to the Gowanus show. “In Brooklyn, overhead is higher than other places and space is limited, but it’s fun to be a part of it all here.”

The Gowanus Print Lab, which has exhibitions, studio space and offers screen printing classes, says printing does offer some commercial opportunities that other mediums may not.

“Screen printing, as far as being an art craft can also be an entrepreneurial tactic. A lot of people come here to print things to sell,” said Hildreth.

“The East Coast Art of Rock Show” at the Gowanus Print Lab [54 Second Ave. between Seventh and Eighth streets, (718) 788–3920, www.gowanusprintlab.com]. Through July 21.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

Spray-on art: Jake O’Grady is hard at work at the Gowanus print lab.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini