Review of American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art

American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art is an excellent, highly DIY doc. In it, Merle Becker (who has a YouTube channel devoted do DIY video production) follows her passion around the country, interviewing rock poster artists active from the 60s through the early 2000s. It about 90 minutes long, and has three fairly distinct chapters: late 60s (largely psychedelic), 1980s (mostly punks), and the indie period from the 90s through early 00s.

Produced in 2009, it was new to me. Rock poster art, while a form of applied art/commercial art, emerged from a kind of vernacular and outsider source, distinctly different from what would have been similar-ish, such as magazine ads. It’s an art form definitely worth celebrating and studying, as these artifacts were created to advertise local shows, often at small clubs, and their less costly, ephemeral nature means they very much speak to the zeitgeist within which they were created.

I was quite taken with the degree of passion and commitment that went into producing these things that would get torn down from telephone poles. I loved the part where folks shared how they learned the idiosyncrasies of the photocopiers around them, and would run their flyers through different ones to get the effects they wanted. This is a level of dedication not typically associated with punks.

The episodic nature of the doc also makes it conducive to watching in ~30 minute chunks. My only complaint is that I think this has only ever been produced for DVD, so the picture quality isn’t HD, which means you lose some of the majesty of the art.