In the early 2000s, a group of artists who design and screen-print concert posters for bands decided to organize an exhibition of their work in San Francisco. It was so successful that they formed a nonprofit called the American Poster Institute to put on shows at future music-related events. Today, the API's long-running Flatstock exhibition is synonymous with the celebration of the show poster as an art form.
"Bumbershoot has been hosting Flatstock since Flatstock started," says Mike Klay, a local graphic artist who runs Powerslide Design Co. and serves on the board of the American Poster Institute. "Flatstock 1 was in San Francisco, Flatstock 2 was in Austin during SXSW, and Flatstock 3 was in Seattle at Bumbershoot in 2003."
For Klay, who has exhibited as an artist at every Bumbershoot since Flatstock began, it seems only natural that the show would have such strong ties to Seattle. He cites our "rich and vibrant music history"—a scene that has been home to Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Heart, and Sir Mix-A-Lot, in addition to being ground zero for grunge—as a reason so many Seattleites are drawn to gig posters as an art form.
For the uninitiated, screen-printing is a graphic process that involves creating an image that's designed as a stencil, allowing ink to pass through some areas of a screen and not others. By layering several of these stencils on top of each other, artists are able to achieve intricate, multicolored images. The process is prized by poster artists for its ability to create multiples that are both semi-mechanically precise and enticingly handmade.
Now in its 14th year, Flatstock 62 will be on view at Bumbershoot 2017 in the Armory food court area. And on Monday, September 4 (Labor Day), Flatstock is FREE and open to the public—no Bumbershoot pass required!
Here's a sneak peek at some of the posters that will be featured at the show.
Currently based in Portland, Eric Nyffeler is known for a playful style that combines solid shapes with hand-drawn elements to create bold yet folksy graphics for everyone from St. Vincent to the Decemberists. For this Andrew Bird poster, Nyffeler infuses some M.C. Escher–esque impossible architecture with a tasteful dash of twee. Put a cat on it!
This Flight of the Conchords poster looks like an airline safety card I hope I'm never high enough to come across in real life. It was designed by award-winning Seattle design firm Factory 43 and printed by Broken Press, a Fremont silk-screen shop owned by Andrew Crawshaw, who's a graphic artist (and musician) in his own right.
I'm a complete sucker for both Willie Nelson and relief print processes like linocut and woodcut, where an artist removes material from the surface of a block to create a "stamp." This poster, designed and printed by Portland-based Gary Houston Design, looks like it was first created as a relief print and then exposed onto a screen so that it could be printed as a silk screen. I love the style, but I'm anxious about the fact that Trigger seems to be missing some strings. Hopefully Willie is in the middle of restringing it and all will be well by showtime.