Poster Child 

Local artist Leia Bell earns acclaim in Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion.

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Scenesters and hipsters will be out in full force this week to celebrate the release of a coffee-table book sure to boost their street cred. Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion is the sequel to rock historian Paul Grushkin’s Art of Rock: Posters From Presley to Punk, and it truly is a Lollapalooza—1,800 concert posters in full color culled from nearly 8,000 submissions.

Hundreds of poster artists from around the globe are included: Frank Kozik, Emek, Drowning Creek, cover artist Scrojo and Kilby Court’s own artist in residence Leia Bell—whose posters are plastered over seven pages.

Ken Sanders, who has long admired and encouraged Bell’s artwork, is hosting a publication party and poster show during Friday’s Gallery Stroll. Grushkin will give a presentation on modern rock posters. Bell will be there, as will artists Guy Burwell and Li’l Tuffy to sign books and prints. Works by other artists in the book also will be exhibited.

In making Art of Modern Rock its Fall 2004 Editors’ Pick, Library Journal wrote that the book “will make music fans into art fans and vice versa.” And it is a gorgeous publication. It’s a pleasure to turn the pages whether the bands are familiar or not. The “coffee table” designation isn’t snide: you need to place this tome on a large surface of some sort just to turn the pages. It weighs in at 10 pounds, is about a foot square with almost 500 full-color pages of posters covering the past 15 years.

Grushkin credits the poster explosion to the Internet’s creation of an international community of listeners and viewers and the CDs destruction of “eye-opening” LP covers, a void that poster art fills.

The book moves from “The Silkscreen Movement” through chapters like “The Devil Made Me Do It” and “Industrial Strength” to end with “New Realities.” Salt Lake City’s Leia Bell makes a one-page appearance in the first chapter and has a six-page spread in the last. Not bad for a girl from Tennessee who came to the U to study photography and got lost along the way—some of the classes she wanted were full. (Can you say karma?)

Bell started making posters for small indie rock bands “to make the scene a little more interesting” and to get her work out there for people to see. She didn’t start out screen-printing, “but I tried to be real innovative with Xerox prints I did at Kinko’s,” she said. When a copier had some blue or red toner along with the usual black, Bell would “do one pass with just the blue toner, then do a black toner on top of it, so the fliers would be different-looking, so they’d stand out from all the other fliers out there.”

She began making silk-screen posters in the summer of 2001, right after graduating from the U with a degree in printmaking. She had started experimenting with exposing pictures onto photographic paper, and ended up with a process she describes as a blending of photography, drawing and painting.

Her boyfriend, Phil Sherburne, puts on the shows at Kilby Court, an all-ages venue downtown. She would tape up her Kilby posters in “music stores and tattoo parlors, places where indie rock kids would be hanging out,” and saw them start to disappear—people were taking them home. Sherburne, a carpenter and furniture maker, built a studio onto their apartment, where Bell prints no more than 150 pieces in a run, “sometimes a lot less,” using three or four colors. Phil and Leia have two sons, Ivan and Cortez, cool enough to make the scene at many a Kilby show.

The creative process starts with the photographs Bell takes at parties and other places and later makes a drawing from. “When I look through the camera ... I see drawings. ... what I’m seeing is the line, the outline, and the interaction, and maybe one supporting element like the telephone pole in the background,” she said. She describes her work as “a sort of human narrative ... My photos capture moments that people are part of, and when I translate them to poster images, people can relate to them. They’re not exactly a particular person, but they have basic elements of human behavior and human interaction, which people can recognize and respond to.”

Plus they’re just a whole lot of fun to look at.

ART OF MODERN ROCK Publication Party and Gallery Show Friday, Dec. 3, 7-9 p.m. Exhibit through Dec. 24 Ken Sanders Rare Books 268 S. 200 East 521-3819

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Ann Poore

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