National Poster Retrospecticus Invades Mondo
A print show so big, they had to do it twice
By Richard Whittaker,
12:30PM, Fri. Sep. 11, 2015
It used to be that when you said, "I have a poster on my wall," you meant some shredded-up Tiger Beat centerfold held up with tape. Now hand-printed gig and movie posters are something to be curated and treasured. This weekend, the National Poster Retrospecticus opens its first Austin show to highlight the finest examples of this new pop art.
Featuring the work of major names like Aaron Horkey, Tyler Stout, Tom Whalen, and Kevin Tong, plus collectives like Factory 43, House Industries, and the Silent Giants, the exhibition almost represents a state-of-the-nation summation of print. For NPR founder J.P. Boilard (better known under his professional name of J.P. Boneyard), this weekend's opening at the Mondo Gallery is a kind of homecoming. The Massachusetts native and graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design moved to Austin last fall, "so this is the first official show in our new home base."
The collection is actually so big, it will be split into two separate shows, with separate opening nights. The first exhibition starts Sept. 12 with around half the collection, then that will all come down for the second opening night on Sept. 19. Boilard says, "This is the first time we've done something like this. Usually we do a one-night show, and we put up all the work that the space can fit, and we take it down the next day, and drive or fly to a new city. But because of the fact that we're local and the gallery is smaller, the approach is, let's see if we can just cut the collection in half, and hang each half at both of the shows."
Boilard was particularly excited to be exhibiting at Mondo, and not only because of its key role in the modern print explosion. "So many artists that work with Mondo are in the show," he says, "and we're friends with most of the Mondo folks anyway, it just feels like an awesome fit." However, it definitely won't feel like a regular Mondo show, as the gallery normally gives each piece a chunk of wall and surrounding white space all to its own. Boilard says, "We like to have no white space, so it's just posters floor to ceiling."
A graphic designer by trade, Boilard started mounting small pop-up shows in 2006. He relaunched the endeavor in 2012, and a year later he turned it into a touring exhibit. Across that time, the collection has swollen from roughly 100 prints by 50 artists to more than 400 works from 100 creators. "We take that work and put it up in traditional galleries or universities or design studios," he says. "We just had a show at Adobe, we've got one at Lego coming up, but we've shown in bombed-out basements, galleries with holes in the ceiling where it's raining inside."
Those impromptu venues were closest to his own roots as a promoter, putting on DIY basement punk shows in his tiny hometown of Palmer (pop. 12,947). "We'd done 300 shows that way, and 100 of those were in my mother's backyard shed." These weren't just some local guys with a couple of chords between them, with Fugazi and members of Sonic Youth on the bills, and for Boilard, that's what those posters represent. He admits that he's not a poster collector for collecting's sake, but "I'm someone that loves the medium and the craft and the moments in time that they represent."
The NPR shows combine both his fascination with prints and his experience as a promoter, and have allowed him to see the evolution of the art form. The scene has undoubtedly exploded, and he's seen a shift in what people are buying, with less dependence on licensed gig and movie posters, and more emphasis on original works. He said, "Art prints have become a little more accepted in the poster world, so now people are just doing fun art prints. They collect all of the money on those print sales, versus admission to the door or maybe 20 copies for yourself."
As for what the audience gets out of it, Boilard sees a reaction to the disposal and transitory nature of all things digital. He said, "It's $20 to $40 for something that's handmade and limited-edition, and you can put a standard frame on it for 30 bucks, so you're not going to break the bank to have a piece of art in your house. If it commemorates an event you went to, that's even better, because that's a special night when you saw your favorite band or you met your future girlfriend or your future husband."
National Poster Retrospecticus, Sept. 12-23 at Mondo Gallery, 4115 Guadalupe. Special opening event showcases Sept. 12 and 19 at 6pm. More info at www.nationalposterretrospecticus.com.