American Artifact

The Rise of Amer­i­can Rock Poster Art

American Artifact poster by Dennis Loren

Amer­i­can Arti­fact: The Rise of Amer­i­can Rock Poster Art” is the story of one of America’s truest folk art forms, the rock poster.

Begin­ning in the 1960s in San Fran­cisco with the birth of the dance con­cert, a rock poster accom­pa­nied almost every show that was put on dur­ing that era. At the time, Janis Joplin and the Grate­ful Dead were not played on the radio, and the only way you could adver­tise their shows, was by hang­ing posters in the streets.

Soon, peo­ple began pulling the posters off of the tele­phone poles, almost as quickly as they were put up, and pro­mot­ers such as Bill Gra­ham started to give them out at the end of his shows to adver­tise the next week’s show. The art, both beau­ti­ful and edgy, closely par­al­lels the changes in Amer­i­can cul­ture through­out the decades.

Posters” in the ‘80s were actu­ally “fly­ers” done for punk shows on Xerox machines in local libraries, or at Kinko’s. They were glued to build­ings and phone poles sur­rep­ti­tiously at night by kids in the scene. In this pre­com­puter era, the fly­ers were, for lack of a bet­ter com­par­i­son “the MySpace of the ‘80s”.

American Artifact poster by Chuck Sperry

Today, Amer­ica is see­ing a resur­gence in this art form, brought upon by the pop­u­lar­ity of web­sites like, and the ease of silk screen­ing. Artists like EMEK, Tara McPher­son, and Jay Ryan are cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful works of art for con­tem­po­rary groups like The Decem­berists and Death Cab For Cutie.

This extra­or­di­nary film, which includes inter­views with over 30 artists, takes the viewer on a jour­ney through the dif­fer­ent decades and incar­na­tions of this rebel­lious art form, and spends time with, arguably, some of the finest artists of this era.

For more infor­ma­tion go to: .

American Artifact by Chris Shaw