Los Angeles' mysticism is transfixing and this can be, in part, thanks to the bold, bravado-riddled Colby-printed posters that paint the streets from Hollywood Hills to Venice Beach. LA is part of Colby’s blood; the family run poster biz (now in its 66th year) still prints iconic Californian signage in fluoro colours that is as audaciously bright as any west coast face-lift is outrageously tight.
Colby's work has a strong West Coast feel, the colours are bright and bold, designed to stand out in the bright Los Angeles sunshine
Hoxton-based gallery KK Outlet has asked the influential artist, typographer and illustrator Anthony Burrill (the man behind the ‘Work Hard and Be Nice to People’ print) to curate a selection of the signage-printing company's work. Playing into the history of poster art, Colby tackles both high and low culture with its brash and recognizable graphics. Looking into this further, Burrill spoke to Dazed Digital about the upcoming exhibit.
Dazed Digital: Colby uses a traditional printing method - what does the process entail and why do you prefer its effect?
Anthony Burrill: I am interested in traditional print processes, especially when used in a modern way. I love the work that Colby produce, they use woodblock type in a very free and spontaneous way. Wood type can be restrictive due to its physical nature, but the way that Glenn and his team use it feels free and fun. The wood type is combined with bright fluorescent screen-print backgrounds. It's an amazing combination, giving the finished prints a raw and exciting appearance. I love the use of language as well, the strange and surreal sounding combinations of words that don't make any sense to us non-Los Angeles residents.
DD: Poster art has historical precedence - from Toulouse-Lautrec democratising of art by treating Parisian streets like a gallery to Rodchenko's politicised propaganda. Where does Colby's work lie in the coloured history of the mode?
Anthony Burrill: Colby's work has gained a strong following by artists, musicians and designers. I came across their work after seeing prints they produced for artist Allen Ruppersberg. Colby's work has a very definite look and feel, it is nostalgic yet contemporary at the same time, it doesn't feel false, it has an honesty and direct appeal. The unique quality and method of production is appealing because of its eccentricity and individuality. The character of Glenn, the proprietor, comes through in the work, he is enthusiastic, open and approachable. Working with him is a real treat!
DD: Colby is based in LA - how has this effected their use of colour, font and graphics?
Anthony Burrill: Colby's work has a strong West Coast feel, the colours are bright and bold, designed to stand out in the bright Los Angeles sunshine. The vivid colour fades and wacky acid combinations are rooted in sixties hippy counter culture. The posters are part of every day Los Angeles life and used in a contemporary playful way.
DD: The content of the posters vary dramatically on subject - does the content effect design?
Anthony Burrill: The content doesn't seem to effect the design process at all! The use of colour and typography is consistent throughout their work. This is what gives the output so much appeal, the apparent irreverence of advertising the L.A.P.D. annual party using a poster that looks like its been put together by an acid fried hippy is wonderful.
DD: Considering Colby is still a commercial enterprise do you think placing their work within the space of an art gallery changed the way we perceive the work?
Anthony Burrill: Colby produce an amazing range of work, from internationally renowned fine artists Allen Ruppersberg and Daniel Joseph Martinez to local dog breeders and child care providers. Their approach is the same whether they are producing work for a fancy art gallery or the Venice Beach Gospel Rally. I love this approach, the mixture of high and low culture feels democratic, inclusive and celebratory. There is a simple honesty about the work, it mirrors the diversity of Los Angeles and exudes a relaxed West Coast vibe.
DD: What significant features of the exhibition should viewers look out for?
Anthony Burrill: Check out the free and easy use of language, the eye popping colour combinations and try to imagine what an all female Iron Maiden tribute band might sound like!
'Made in L.A., Colby Poster Printing' - 5th October - 27th October, KK Outlet, 42 Hoxton Square, London, N1