Books: Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground (2013)

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Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground, edited by Matthew Chojnacki, highlights some of the best millennial poster art inspired by classic films. The book contains full-color photos of 200 posters from artists all over the world. Each page features a poster with the artist’s bio and comments about influences and favorite films.

You might find these posters as flyers advertising arthouse film screenings, on blogs or websites, or as part of a gallery exhibit. Some of the posters are commissioned pieces, but most were created as art — or just for the fun of it.

As Chojnacki discusses in his introduction, film posters have changed since the mid-1990s, and not for the better. The days of mainstream movie poster as artistic statement as the films are long gone. The classic art of movie posters for The Exorcist, Vertigo, and Psycho, and comic illustrations of 1960s comedies (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, Irma La Douce, etc.) that were an extension of the film’s ambience. You could admire the poster as a standalone work of art — or kitsch, in the case of some B-film posters. Most posters designed by major movie studios today feature airbrushed stars and special effects. They are merely promotional tools, with little thought put into the message behind the film or the poster as original art.

Some of the talented artists featured in Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground may use techniques and materials untouched by poster artists of the 20th Century, but their hearts are in the same place. Their designs are used to evoke the feeling of the film. For instance, the garish, in-your-face color in Killer Klowns from Outer Space captures the campy film perfectly, and there’s a surrealistic cartoon take on Ghostbusters. Minimalist designs are favored by a fair number of the featured artists. The poster for Thank You for Smoking is nothing but dollar signs against a black background. Almost Famous is simply the title on the label of a vinyl LP.

Collages and layering are other popular design methods. James Rheem Davis (Giantsumo.com), the artist who designed the poster for ’80s sci-fi film They Live says: “My main influences are flyer walls/poles where flyers for gigs or advertisements are pasted, and you get many different layers, colors and textures.” And some aren’t movie posters at all: Artist Michael Whaite’s neon signs, inspired by Pee Wee Herman dancing on the bar in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) dancing in Pulp Fiction evoke the playful roadside advertising of the 1950s.

Chojnacki looked at more than 10,000 posters before choosing the best of the bunch for Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art from the Underground. Alternative movie posters are in demand as collectibles and works of art, and readers are sure to find a few posters in the pages of this book that would look great framed in their home or office.

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