Last weekend, I was lucky enough to see the opening night of American Artifact at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Not only is the film an excellent retrospective of American rock poster design, but the director, Merle Becker was on hand with local poster artists, Jay Ryan, Mat Daly, Steve Ryan, and Jim Pollock, to field questions from the audience and sell posters. (NOTE: I am horrible with names and unfortunately didn’t recognize the last two designers on the panel discussion in person…I grabbed the line-up from the theater’s site, however, I am fairly sure that they meant Steve Walters of Screwball Press rather than Steve Ryan. That is, unless there just happens to be two Steve Ryans out there designing in Chicago.)
The film begins by highlighting shops, such as Hatch Show Print, that were involved with designing/printing event posters for sporting and music events as far back as the 1800s. It then follows the progression of concert poster design through the psychedelic era until today. I was especially interested to see if Becker had managed to interview Wes Wilson, who has been incredibly hard to interview in recent years. She hadn’t, but his colleagues helped to present his work. (I was lucky enough to have Wilson speak to my college class, and the man is fascinating.) In all, I found the film to be incredibly interesting and thorough: complete with interviews with personal favorites Tara McPherson, Jay Ryan, and Mat Daly. The panel discussion was rather insightful as well.
Before and after the show I was lucky enough to visit with Daly, Ryan, and Becker. I loved hearing about how Daly is influenced by Impressionism (see posters in foreground above), while Becker shared that she had tried contacting Wes Wilson during filming (he declined an interview). I also had a (-n internal) fan-girl moment when Jay Ryan signed my book with a cute little bear:
I highly recommend seeing the film if you are a fan of music or design history: especially if you get the chance to hear the participants speak in person. Thank you to all of the artists and the director for a great film and a fun evening. And a special thanks to Craig and his friends for inviting me along.