Not surprisingly, the relationship between poster artists and the music starts with these visual artists being musicians themselves. Burns has played in bands over the years, most currently in the local group The Nein. After attending UNC-Chapel Hill, he began working at the Cat's Cradle and designing fliers and posters for the venue's shows, which he still does today. Flattum moved to the area about seven years ago, after stints with noisy rockers Steel Pole Bathtub, and Milk Cult, primarily focusing on his visual work since he's resided in Raleigh. Hailing from the Jersey shore, Liberti has lived in the Triangle for over 10 years, having done time in punk outfit Pipe and Clok Lok, among others; he currently plays with The Ghost of Rock and The Tooth. Since their inception, punk posters have told much more than the data required to attend a show, placing the posters along the same purposeful lines as zines: self-contained, personal imprints of their creators.
Burns, Flattum and Liberti all bring unique styles to the printing table. Burns often uses line drawings as the basis for his work, tying in animal themes or various symbols that relate somehow to the music or artist--a hand-cutting of a lock of hair depicts change or serenity, or a rabid wolf-ish creature depicting a show for vitriolic post-punk band The Fall. Looking at Flattum's cut-and-paste collages is like looking at the work of old Surrealist or Bauhaus artists, with unrelated, segmented images coming together in a playful way, like crossed legs jutting from a shirt neck or a squirrel gnawing on a miniature human head. Liberti's screen prints are instantly recognizable, with boldly colored swatches against images from foreign films, true crime photos, or child photos of the musicians listed on the posters, cut with jagged font-types that jut out from the image like shards of glass. This same spirit of invention and personal expression found in most media considered "fine art," like painting or sculpture, aren't lost in any of these artists' work.
Without the work of Burns, Flattum and Liberti, the Triangle's sidewalks and avenues would be noticeably drab. Their work establishes credibility from this region in the files of poster artists everywhere, and this is exemplified no better than in their inclusion in the new collection The Art of Modern Rock: the Poster Explosion. The book follows the first major collection of music poster art, The Art of Rock, and features their work alongside other notable artists' prints like Frank Kozik and The Ames Brothers. The opening is a celebration of this book as well as the return of Burns and Flattum from an appearance at Flatstock 3, an international rock poster convention held in Seattle, in conjunction with the Bumbershoot Festival. Come check out the work of these artists, where form meets function in the most creative and contemporary of ways. The show will run through Sept. 30.