POSTER SHOW II with QUEST FOR FIRE, TEENANGER, D.C.T. and CATL and featuring poster artists Leslie Predy, Deadweight, Adam Swinbourne, Alice Phieu and others at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick), Friday (February 1), 6 pm. $6. 416-923-8137. Rating: NNNNN
They’re slapped on telephone poles and NOW boxes everywhere. But if you look closely at the ubiquitous disposable music posters, you’ll find a few gems – DIY graphic designs and illustrations by local artists influenced by the mid-90s alt-rock gig art of Frank Kozik, who married edgy flash design with live music posters.
Confident that many of today’s posters are far more than throwaway advertisments, artist Ryan Halpenny has organized The Poster Show – with bands in tow.
“There’s such a gamut of styles and backgrounds - from people who have no design experience all the way up to those who did their time at OCAD.
“Some definitely elevate it above a cut-and-paste thing, which is cool, but lots take posters to a different place than previous artists, emphasizing design rather than getting the band’s name out."
But if the band’s name is meant to last, then why not the posters that advertise them as well? Local artist Leslie Predy – whose work, self-described as like that of a five-year-old on crack, is featured in this year’s show – is excited about the potential longevity of high-quality gig art.
“People are getting back to screen printing and making posters more of a permanent form of art, and I like where that trend is going,” says Predy.
Not limited to the quirky whims of indie rock, local gig posters are indebted to the enduring DIY ethos of the city’s punk and hardcore scenes. Currently, the only places to take in these one-of-a-kinds – often relics of life before the Internet – is at record shop Hits and Misses (860 Bloor West), which displays hundreds of them, or via a small Facebook group (Toronto Punk and Hardcore Flyers 1991-1999).
According to music promoter Ewan Exall, these posters – often crude cut-and-paste efforts – are fantastic works of art as well as the only means many had to find out where shows were happening.
“They seem to be getting the same recognition that psychedelic posters did in the 80s,” he says.
Aside from its high-contrast, archaic visual appeal, this art signifies something much deeper, according to Exall.
“You see the history of your life and your friends’ lives on the wall. It really does tell our story as a community.”
“Seeing your stuff in a gutter after the show sucks, but it did its job – people came to the show,” says Halpenny. “It’s also a huge compliment to see your poster stuck up on the wall.”