February 23, 2013
ForYourArt presented an exhibition of works produced by or with the Colby Poster Printing Company, curated by Jan Tumlir, with Christopher Michlig and Brian Roettinger. In the Good Name of the Company presented works by Kathryn Andrews, Scott Benzel, Peter Coffin, Sam Durant, Eve Fowler, Emilie Halpern, Imprenta, Simon Johnston, Christopher Michlig, Brian Roettinger, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, and many more alongside a representative selection of posters from Colby’s own archive.
Typically employed to promote neighborhood events such as street fairs, small-scale musical concerts and the like, they would find a new clientele when Ed Ruscha contracted a rival company in 1962 to produce the announcement for the exhibition New Paintings of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum. Since then, the Colby Poster Printing Company has gone on to serve as an important resource to a broad range of LA-based artists, from Allen Ruppersberg (who transcribed Allen Ginsberg’s Howl onto Colby posters in 2003) to Eve Fowler (who did much the same with Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons in 2012).
Colby has provided artists with a means to escape the confines of the studio or the white cube. Instead, through the poster medium, artists could engage the life of the street. As such, their posters became a form of public art perfectly suited to the LA context with its inherent transience and disposability. In one way or another, the artists featured in this exhibition have used the poster as a means to shape our experience of the street and the city.
March 22 Black Light Night was a special event for the closing of In the Good Name of the Company. For the evening, the exhibition was lit only by black lights and featured a listening party for Scott Benzel’s accompanying sound piece, String Quartet No. 2., a four-channel sound installation.
The quartet is based on field recordings of street sounds found around Los Angeles–the sounds of car alarms, helicopters, the Metro Rail, pedestrian crossings, and traffic–and structured loosely after Morton Feldman’s String Quartet Number 2. It debuted at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in 2011. In the Good Name of the Company was its Los Angeles debut.
About the Colby Poster Printing Company
The Los Angeles based Colby Poster Printing Company has long been a friend to local artists. Their fluorescent posters have been disseminated on every available high-traffic-adjacent surface in the city. Their extensive collection of over 150 wood and metal typefaces, usually bold and generally san serif, are by now an integral part of the visual aesthetic of Los Angeles. Throughout the years, posters promoting everything from west coast punk and heavy metal concerts in the 1980s to swap meets, street fairs, gun and bridal shows, local political campaigns, and too many artist projects to mention have been printed on Colby’s restless Heidelberg letterset press. A family owned and operated union print shop since 1948, the Colby Poster Printing Company closed its doors forever on December 31, 2012.
Read Jan Tumler’s essay to find out more about the Colby Poster Printing Company.
Read Remembering Colby Poster Printing Company on Los Angeles I’m Yours.
Read KCET’s article Colby Printing: Rainbow Posters on Every Corner.
Read the LA Currents article Armchair Critic: More Than Words in LA.