American Artifact

Here's another movie about rock poster art, a peculiar side channel to popular music that never quite intersects with its host, although the music and art do inform and reflect each other from time to time. We recently visited this terrain with Eileen Yaghoobian's Died Young, Stayed Pretty, a navel-gazing documentary that indulged a bunch of poster artists to ramble on about whatever they wanted. Director Merle Becker takes a different tack with American Artifact, a generally successful if two-dimensional historical overview of the trajectory of rock posters as an art form. Through interviews with the artists--and plenty of screen time for the posters themselves--we see posters evolve from the hippie-fied swirls and tracers of psychedelic artists like Stanley Mouse in the 1960s to the crude, hand-copied flyers of the 1980s, to artists like Tacoma's Art Chantry and Austin's Frank Kozik ushering in the '90s revival of the poster as an art form. But as capable as the movie is of providing an overview of poster art, it still feels largely inessential.


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