Its wise to avoid words like masterpiece and tour de force when commenting on rock n roll poster art. Hyperbole, after all, can be a turd in the punchbowl when it comes to nostalgia. But in the rare instance that a graphic artists work is as accessible, seminal and immediately identifiable as Gary Grimshaws, then well-thought-out kudos are perfectly within reason.
Poster art is a medium for the walls of weed-hazy dorm rooms and subterranean dwellings, but just because the working-class genre doesnt get the same kind of pedantic hoopla as fine art doesnt mean that it should be swept under the rug. Ask Patt Slack, owner of the Rivers Edge Gallery in downtown Wyandotte. Shell tell you that any artist who has the chutzpah and chops to make art a lifelong profession deserves respect. Thats why Grimshaws opening at the Rivers Edge last week felt like a very big deal.
Theres this group of artists who are Detroit icons, Slack says. They have been tramping the streets for years and making history. Garys definitely one of them.
Grimshaw started making poster art in 1966, and, over the years, secured himself a spot on the masthead of Detroits rock n roll scene. Over the years he did work for the famous Grande Ballroom, and for such bands as the Stooges and the MC5. His album cover design for the MC5s 1968 release, Kick out the Jams, is on view in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. But whats even more impressive than Grimshaws curriculum vitae as 60s hipster more important than his credentials as an organizer of the John Sinclair Freedom Rally and associate art director for Creem magazine is that Grimshaw, unlike the events, bands and torn-down venues he helped make famous, isnt ready to cash in on legacy status just yet.
Stop by the Rivers Edge Gallery and youll see. Cool never went out of style.