American Artifact

Movies Reviews
American Artifact

Release Date:June 20

Director: Merle Becker

Studio/Run Time: Freakfilms, Inc., 88 mins.

Becker crosses the country to trace history of gig posters, getting some great interviews along the way

Before Bill Graham and his legendary Fillmore West venue, posters were not common and were generally poorly printed, slapdash affairs. But Graham began hiring artists to produce high quality posters to give out to the first 500 concert patrons that left each night—as a way to clear out the room. That’s just one interesting tidbit in Merle Becker’s new documentary, which examines four especially creative periods in the history of the gig-poster scene: the psychedelic late sixties, the punk flyer scene of the early eighties, the poster rebirth in the mid-nineties, and the present day.

Becker snags interviews with an impressive number of the greatest living poster artists, and they open up to her about both the artistic and the technical aspects of their processes. It’s moments like those—talking shop with the rock-poster greats—that must have been in her mind when she first conceived the project upon discovering a book called The Art of Modern Rock. “I remember standing in the bookstore for about 3 hours just going through that book,” she told Paste. “ I was totally blown away. Not only was I unaware that rock posters were still being made, but here was this amazing artwork in front of me for some of my favorite relatively unknown bands. It was really an eye-opener.” The film doesn’t have a definite arc, and does drag in places, but Becker’s obvious passion for the topic ultimately saves the day. It will lead for many not only to an enjoyable couple of movie-watching hours, but also to a lifetime of collecting gig art.

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