It’s a good thing Willie Dixon was thoughtful enough to remind us that you “can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.” If you could, you’d run far, far away from the new coffee-table tome Art of Modern Rock: the Poster Explosion. The painfully clichéd, stiff-nippled “devil girl” who pollutes the cover gives no inkling to the brilliant and innovative genius that lurks within.
Weighing in at more than 5 pounds, Art of Modern Rock contains more than 1,800 representations of poster art from down the block and around the world. While co-author Paul Grushkin’s previous book, The Art of Rock, concerned itself with pre-1985 poster art, Modern Rock’s focus is largely on the indie rock scene and the fringe visual artists who applied their collective touch to singing its praises. Among the more than 375 artists and studios who populate these nearly 500 pages are Seattle great Art Chantry, with his stunning graphic wit, the powerful figurative work of Cleveland’s Derek Hess and the vibrant, sumptuous silkscreens of Detroiter Mark Arminski.
Even if you know nothing about poster art and the folks who make it — and, let’s face it, most people don’t — there’s so much flashy stuff here that you’re bound to be entertained every time you crack this behemoth. Detroiters, in particular, will get a kick out of seeing big nods to Chicago’s Tom Deja, who has made his name creating inventive posters for the Lager House and the Magic Stick over recent years, as well as local legend Glenn Barr, whose stylish figurative work has made him an international star. Just two burning questions: 1) Where are Michael Segal and Mark Dancey? and 2) How are you going to get this monstrous thing from the rack to the checkout counter without suffering inferred endorsement of its embarrassing cover art?
Wendy Case writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].