You need only look at the magnitude of work they've done for Jack White's Dead Weather — which includes set design, posters and a deck of cards, to get a sense of their regard. Their commissions for the Alamo Draft House don't hurt either. We're talking about Silent Giants, which is Chris Everhart and Ed Knight, artists who've earned international success pumping out a bevy of cleverly designed music and movie screen prints.
Having designed posters, merch and cover art for some of the most notable "indie" touring bands — local and otherwise — the Silent Giants successfully developed their own aesthetic. You can look at a poster or album and say, "that's very Silent Giants."
That aesthetic includes lots of vintage-y imagery, from the architecture and furniture of the 1950s and early '60s, from retro album art, and from the shapes of the solar system.
The name of the Silent Giants first art show is Our Infinite Universe — up now in Royal Oak — an apt title considering the outer limits of this creative combo are yet to be defined. Their best work isn't yet produced —the two are still in their mid-20s.
On opening night, Metro Times caught up with the Silent Giants to map out their Infinite Universe.
Metro Times: What is your universe made of?
Ed Knight: The clean lines and natural flow of design from the '50s to early '70s. That's a big inspiration.
MT: What is it about that era?
Knight: The style was more pleasing to the eye. Everything these days is so chaotic, like it's been thrown together too fast, without much thought. Instead of quality it's, "Get this done as fast as you can." It's like the aesthetic of design is going away. We're just trying to make people see in different ways.
MT: Is that approach something you planned out before you started making posters?
Chris Everheart: We've always been into printmaking and it started with that. A lot of prints we produced were handmade, either lithographs or screen prints, largely influenced by the WPA posters of the late '30s and early '40s. Those got us thinking about minimal color, texture, and how to make it work in a contemporary context.
MT: Where do the Silent Giants go from here?
Everheart: We're playing it by ear. This has always been kind of a side project for us, and as long as we're having fun we'll keep at it.
Knight: We're exploring new boundaries, like this gallery show. We did a mural here recently too. We like being pushed into new realms; it's nice to do work other than posters. We want to expand.
MT: Cool, but can you tell us about specific future endeavors?
Everheart: We just did two snowboards for a company called Sims. We did packaging for Ra Ra Riot's new album, which comes out next week. We did a few things for the Dead Weather, but for now we've been caught up with our day jobs and trying to relax a bit.
MT: In your rock band poster art, I see you play with strange symbolisms, almost like the paintings of icons in a church. Are there certain themes or objects that you've noticed cropping up in your work?
Everheart: A lot of the posters, depending on what band you're working for, like the Dead Weather, there's a set of colors that we use and there's a certain aesthetic line that we follow. That band has a strict approval process. Bands are starting to push in that direction. They want their posters to build a look for the band and to be collectable. I dig that. But overall, we listen to the music and try to create whatever feels best according to that.
MT: Have you created anything for a band that was rejected — did it break your heart?
Everheart: With this new Ra Ra Riot stuff, we went down a certain road and it seemed that everyone was happy with the direction it was going. Then, all of a sudden, it took a complete 180 and instead they wanted to use some photographs from the making of the album. It turned out great, because it represents the look of band at the time, but at first it did kind of break my heart.
MT: Given your recent success, do you ever see yourselves leaving Detroit?
Everheart: My girlfriend lives in Germany, and that's the only reason I'd ever leave. There's a lot of good going on here. I feel like things are on the upswing.
Knight: We're respected here. I think people aren't used to artists, when they reach a certain level of success, staying in Detroit. We really like supporting the city and giving back to it.
MT: Give us three words that describe the Silent Giants' work.
Knight: Do work, son.
Everheart: (laughs) Yeah, that's a good one. Do work, son.
Amanda Le Claire is a freelance writer and hosts Morning Edition on 101.9 WDET. Send letters to [email protected]
Our Infinite Universe runs through Sept. 9, at 323 East Gallery, located at 323 E. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 866-756-6538; 323east.com.