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Art of the Dead Hardcover – December 4, 2012
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It's been a long time since a book on 60's poster art has had anything remotely new to show fans (like me), and with great reproduction values to boot. This is that book. Is every poster new to viewers? No. But the approach by the editor (who's involved in the poster field and knows what he's talking about), and his choices of posters is top notch. Plus, editor Phil Cushway takes a different path-rather than simply reproducing posters, he goes into some historical detail about the poster making process. Overall this is probably a 5 "star" book, but for me, it's closer to 4 1/2 "stars"-but who's quibbling over 1/2 a "star"?
This coffee table size book is full of great period poster work by many of the greatest artists of that era, and some lesser (or completely) unknown artists, along with essays by Greil Marcus, Mickey Hart, and Peter Coyote, who were there when all this was happening. Don't think that the title means this is nothing but Grateful Dead posters-it's not. The band is used primarily as a jumping off point to anchor the story of poster art in this specific period. But you'll notice that the band figures in many of the posters, which is fine. But what's different (and pretty cool) about this particular book, is that the history of poster printing and manufacturing is also here-not in any great detail, and primarily limited to the "Grateful Dead era"-but enough to form a foundation for later artwork. Included are preliminary work sketches, printing plates, etc. But don't think this is some dry treatise on poster history/making-it's not. If (again like me) you already own books like "The Art Of Rock", and "The Art Of The Fillmore", etc., you should probably think about adding this book to your library. The inclusion of a number of rare posters or even some that are little seen by fans makes this book worth pouring over. The reproductions are crisp and clean, with many close to full page size-as they should be.
Cushway also includes a few paragraphs (some with quotes from the artists and himself) from a number of the major artists, along with examples of their work. My only complaint (and it's totally self-serving) is that I wish many of the smaller reproductions could've been full page size (or close to it) to bring out the true beauty and wonder of each piece of art. The full effect of these posters can only be truly appreciated (and felt) at a larger reproduction size. But I realize doing so would've made the book prohibitively expensive, and/or unwieldy. Of course, nothing beats seeing these posters tacked onto telephone polls, fences, buildings, and taped to the occasional VW bus as it chugged by, in all their mind-numbing glory. I can remember seeing someone putting these posters up, and then noticing that they had disappeared a little while later-fans loved either the bands advertised and/or the poster itself-so many were taken down the same day.
This book can easily sit next to other good poster books, along with the great rock poster book "Classic Rock Posters" (which I just finished reading but continue to look at the beautiful poster reproductions), edited by Mick Farren. I came across this beautifully done hardcover book as a "remainder" book at a chain book store. It's still available on-line. This is another great book with good reproductions, laid out chronologically, with informative captions, and essays on each loosely defined period of posters, beginning with early posters and continuing up through the punk era and beyond. If you haven't seen this book either, I suggest you check it out as well. Hopefully Cushway will publish a second volume, filled with even more awesome examples from that long ago era, that can still bring that exciting period back to life when looking at these wonderful pieces of art.
TOO BAD, however, that Amazon cannot, it seems, figure out how to ship a fine book like this without damage.
This one was just thrown into a large box, free to bounce around and damage the dust jacket and bump the corners of the book.
A shame to do that to a nice art book. I'm about to give up on Amazon for books.
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