David Head, Jr. doesn’t really know what’s in all the boxes in this warehouse (“frames, maybe?”), nor has he ever seen the filmmakers who supposedly occupy the office on the third floor. Nestled near the top of this dark, damp warehouse is Screwball Press, a technical hub for Chicago’s struggling freelance graphic artists, where their designs within a computerized world transpose to real ink and paper. When Head arrives, David Walters, who he calls the “godfather of printing in Chicago,” is busily working with an automated press to mass produce a political poster that exclaims “Go tell mama! I’m for Obama!”
Head, the 37-year-old bassist from garage-rockers Headache City, found the place while designing posters for his own band’s shows, and soon found himself designing posters for the Fiery Furnaces, the Ponys and Art Brut. The novelty of rock posters—other than being super easy to rip down as a souvenir after your favorite show—is that it’s art being fed by other art. For Head, Explosions in the Sky didn’t look like the cliché “fireworks in the night” visual, but how “sometimes when you’re looking up through the trees and the leaves are changing and the sun is coming through them.” For the Tyrades, self-proclaimed as “Chicago’s first and only punk band,” Head “tried to convey that angularity and that confrontationality of their music” with a scene from a jail cell. When jokingly asked about how he would approach a poster for satirical thrash-metal rockers Gwar, he answers seriously and tactfully: “I’d do something about the theatricality of their ideas.”
Tacked and taped to Screwball’s walls are the works of various artists who have successfully blended marketing with their artistic ambitions. There’s a Miller Geniune Draft poster boasting sixty-four calories, two-point-four carbs and one of the most detailed and flowing artistic patterns ever seen in a beer advertisement (truly beer art has a bright and promising future). There’s a Superchunk poster showing King Kong in a t-shirt (at least an XXXL) climbing to the top of the Sears Tower and bellowing a roar into a microphone.
“However I perceive their aesthetic sound or their look, I try to see how I would visualize that,” Head says when asked how he links a band’s sound with a visual subject. Behind him is the work of another artist, who apparently asked his or herself, “What visual would complement the Dave Matthews Band Virginia Tech memorial show?”
The answer: a sunbathing hot dog. (Andy Seifert)