At South By Southwest, it’s the bands that get the hype. But there are aspects of the conference that, if you dig deeper, prove just as rewarding, if not more. One great, somewhat under-publicized facet of SXSW is Flatstock – an exhibition organized by the American Poster Institute where designers of concert posters display and sell their work. Flatstock proves dizzying: the sheer talent involved rivals that of the bands on the posters themselves. Set up in SXSW’s main conference hall, it features row after row of booths set up by the artists themselves, selling their work (often in fine-art print quality) and of course, advertising their services to the bands that are there anyway as a captive audience. The posters span everything from incredibly surreal, biomorphic images for Dead Weather to witty pop-art takes on Lady Gaga and Willie Nelson.
Rock Paper Show documents the first decade of the twenty-first century as the high-water mark in the storied intersection of graphic design and music. Against the backdrop of the digital- music revolution, the rock poster reemerged during this period as the calling card of impossibly talented new artists and design studios brought up on Black Flag, Joy Division, the Flaming Lips, and the Melvins. Simultaneously, the posters that these studios produced were celebrated by a rapidly growing nation of indie-rock fans who all woke up one day craving beautiful new music-related objects in their lives. The excitement—matched equally in the design and music worlds—was captured by and celebrated via the birth and rapid rise of Flatstock, the American Poster Institute’s ongoing rock-poster exhibition.