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Art of the Dead: A Celebration of the Artists Behind The American Rock Poster Movement
By Philip Cushway
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Review Date: December 30, 2012

Art of the Dead is a wonderful, high-quality book edited by Phil Cushway, founder of Artrock -the most extensive collection of rock posters in the world. He is widely credited with reviving interest in the original posters as well as spawning a whole new generation of artists. He has published over 500 prints for bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Grateful Dead. He has published all of the key artists, including Griffin, Moscoso, Mouse, Kelley, Wilson, Kozik, Armiski, and Coop.

This classy tome is a hard-back that binds 180 four-color, glossy pages displaying the vibrant, charismatic poster art that emerged from the streets of San Francisco in 1964 and 1966.  The end result features iconic and rare images as well as extensive “process” material, including sketches, original art, blue lines, film, and printing plates that show how the art was created. Cushway’s exhaustive work traces the cultural, political, and historical influences of posters as art back to Japanese wood blocks through Bell Époque, on to the Beatniks, the Free Speech Movement, and the Acid Tests.

 Adding to the exquisite collection of rock poster art are interviews and profiles of the key artists, including Rick Griffin, Stanley “Mouse” Miller, Alton Kelley, Wes Wilson, and Victor Moscoso, providing background and flavor to the exhibited art. These are in addition to essays by Greil Marcus, Peter Coyote, and Victoria Binder, as well as essays on the elements of the printing process from the original art to the final poster.

Art of the Dead uses Grateful Dead as the vehicle to tell the story of poster art as The Dead were the band that ultimately proved to be the most substantive and engaged partner for the artists and hence featured the best art of any rock ‘n’ roll band ever. The book will follow a chronological evolution of the art from the band’s origination in 1965 through Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995.

Art of the Dead makes the case that poster art is truly an original form of American fine art.