South Philly coffeehouse show rounds up Philly's best screenprinters.
Consider the poster.
On one hand, you have Xeroxed yard-sale fliers, pleas for misplaced kittens and adverts for CD-release parties—8 1/2x11 examples of function over form. On the other hand, you have posters worth keeping: the Le Tigre screenprint you swiped from a venue in 10th grade, Johnny Cash giving the finger in dive bars and dorm rooms, art prints that mean enough (or that cost enough) to merit a classy frame.
But can posters bring a community together? Collingswood, N.J.-based graphic designer and illustrator Justin Miller and his new South Philly coffee oasis and art space Grindcore House are betting on it. Miller has put together PHL: Printers/Haters/Lovers, a poster show that focuses on what a slew of Philadelphia’s best screenprinting artists love about the city—and what they could live without.
More than 20 local artists will show their works, and nearly all of the posters exhibited will have been created specifically for PHL. Miller and Grindcore House’s owners, Mike Barone and David Anthem, wanted to introduce the new venture to its Pennsport neighborhood with a show of Philly solidarity.
“[Barone and Anthem] really want it to be a fixture of the community as well as a cool hangout spot,” says Miller. “So that’s where the idea for doing a show based on Philly came from. Showing [that] this is our roots, this is where we’re pulling from, this is what we want to be—a fixture of the community.”
PHL’s participating artists list is a veritable roster of Philadelphia’s vital screenprinting scene. Daniel Blackman’s clean, instruction-manual-meets-heraldry illustrative prints have promoted clothing in South Carolina and his illustrations for Cicada Books’ Graphic America guidebook radiate merit-badge-esque charm; Eleanor Grosch’s elegant, minimalist takes on animals have graced many an adorable pair of Keds; Heads of State’s Philly half, Jason Kernevich, has gotten a lot of press lately for the series of tourism-board-gone- Fountainhead city-themed posters he co-created.
Philly’s printing and design collectives represent at PHL, too. Space 1026 sent a few contributors, including Anni Altshul, whose girly-yet-enigmatic fabric prints recall an introspective, grown-up take on Holly Hobbie, and Chris Kline, creator of ultrabright prints of fantastical, wackily-patterned creatures. Ditto Nodivision Design Syndicate, creators of gory, eye-grabbing gig posters for the likes of Hole and Less Than Jake, here represented by Robb Leef. Leef’s contribution draws on Philly’s more-is-more food traditions like the “Philly Challenge”—a cheesesteak wrapped in pizza chased with a 40 of Hurricane—with a melty-licious skyscraper of a sandwich dubbed “Philthy Special.”
Though Leef’s rendering of meatballs, tater tots, pretzels and pickles on the same sandwich at first seem glorious, the image could also be seen as negative: Its too-bright colors hint at something rotten beneath the surface. Is it an homage to tradition, or decrying gastronomic hubris?
One of Grosch’s contributions, a stark rendering of a bicycle seen moving either toward or away from the viewer, could also be seen in a couple of ways: The cycle could be a stylish symbol for Philly riders, or it could be bearing down ominously, the kind of sleek, sinister propaganda that cruises the nightmares of city drivers? (It’s probably the former.)
Regardless of your feelings about our city, fair or foul, Miller has curated the kind of exhibition that should make anyone proud to share Philly air with these artists—and make defectors to Brooklyn more than a little homesick.
Through Aug. 21.
1515 S. Fourth St.