Posters are one of the simplest forms of advertising. Make a nice picture to draw people in, put some words on it explaining what/where the event is, then display it. It is no surprise, then, that artists, always seeking a new way to display their work to the masses, have been drawn to the poster medium over the ages. Toulouse-Lautrec, bohemian poster artist for the Moulin Rouge in late 19th-century France, is one of those responsible for pushing the poster art into new territory. During the 1960s, poster artists expanded again as a way for rock bands to get the word out to fans, but during the 1970s, the medium almost became extinct.
It wasn't until a mid-'80s renaissance in Austin, Texas-aided primarily by one artist, Frank Kozik-that the rock poster as an art form began to reclaim its glory and revived collectibility.
The new rock poster movement has attracted some of the best and brightest artists of our time, perhaps scorning the established "high art" communities of galleries and museums. There is a uniqueness to rock posters. They not only often have strange and beautiful art that challenges the establishment, pushing boundaries of style, color and content, but the rock poster also chronicles an event, providing a peek at one specific point in time.
Get on eBay and you can find collectors overbidding each other for rock posters. It's a highly competitive collectible arena, but to those passionate about it, like Record Exchange owner Mike Bunnell, it can become an obsession.
"I used to get on eBay and spend top dollar," Bunnell said. "But then I asked myself, 'What I was doing?' I'm a merchant. So I contacted the artist directly and asked if they would wholesale."
Looking around the Record Exchange, you can see the fruits of Mikes' passion. In large mylar bags hanging from every available wall space-even from wires stretched across the ceiling-are posters produced by some of Bunnell's favorite artists.
"At first I liked the big, brash colors of Kozik," he said. "But then I got turned on to others such as Derek Hess and Koop. Now my favorite is Gary Houston."
Bunnell commissioned Houston to produce a poster to announce the Record Exchange Rock Poster Show (on display for the month of June). The posters, priced from $20 up (a few displayed from Bunnell's private collection aren't for sale), are from a wide array of artists currently producing posters in the medium. Most are limited edition prints, silkscreened or offset, and often use out-of-the ordinary colors like fluorescents. While it may be eye-opening to see them all at once, covering every conceivable wall space, the posters at the Record Exchange aren't going away. They're all owned by Bunnell, who says he'll keep them on the walls or in flip-bins-and for sale.