from MediaBistro’s Unbeige

American Artifact Chronicles Rock Poster Art’s Long, Strange Trip


In 2004, Merle Becker quit her corporate television job at MTV to pursue a growing fascination with rock posters. Soon, she was traveling across the country interviewing artists such as Stanley MouseArt Chantry, and Tara McPherson. “My initial intent was to find out why so many artists are drawn to doing rock posters,” says Becker. “I also wanted to tell a clear story of the history of the art form.” The result is American Artifact, a documentary that has been making the festival rounds and premieres tonight in New York at the Royal Flush Festival.

The film chronicles the rise of American rock poster art, from the skeleton and roses posters created for the Grateful Dead and the birth of silk-screening to grunge and the off-kilter whimsy associated with contemporary bands. “It is my hope that this film causes people to see ‘lowbrow’ art in a different way,” notes Becker, “as beautiful pieces of art that are also valid statements about the cultural changes that America has seen throughout the years.”

Always a huge music fan, Becker was inspired to make American Artifact after encountering Paul Grushkin and Dennis King‘s coffee table tome Art of Modern Rock. “I was not only blown away by the artwork, but I was also surprised that nobody had done a film about its history and the current rock poster art movement,” Becker tells us. “I really had no idea that modern rock posters were being done, and until that book, I thought that the ’60s rock poster art had marked the end of that medium.” She soon found her way to, “and the rest is history.”

Read on for more from our interview with Becker at