Briscoe Center Digitizes Extraordinary Texas Poster Art Collection - Essay page 1
In the late 1960s, Texas poster art, long an important mainstay of the state's printmaking tradition, entered a fertile and innovative period in Austin. Drawing inspiration from the counter culture and psychedelic music movements, a new generation of Texas graphic arts designers created one-of-a-kind posters. Today their works are considered some of the finest artifacts of this music poster explosion.
The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin has digitized 400 of these extraordinary posters. Brenda Gunn, the Briscoe Center's associate director for research and collections, said, "I thought we should expand our digitization efforts to include our extraordinary Texas Poster Collection. Our digitization team had perfected the process we needed to use, so the poster digitization project was a natural direction to take in our efforts to increase access to the Briscoe Center's visual treasures."
The digitization project, which was made possible by support from the UT System's LERR Fund, focused on the work of more than thirty graphic artists who have documented the Austin music scene since the mid-1960s. Posters selected for digitization represent a cross section of artists and graphic styles, ranging from the San Francisco psychedelic style found in the earliest posters
created by Jim Franklin and Gilbert Shelton, to the cosmic cowboy style Micael Priest perfected in many of the Armadillo World Headquarters posters, to later punk era works.
Gilbert Shelton, The Conqueroo [and other bands], 1967. Texas Poster Art Collection, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; TPA_0138. © Gilbert Shelton/Briscoe Center for American History.
John Wheat, the Briscoe Center's music archivist, said, "The poster artists deserve credit for helping create the Austin music scene because their works popularized concerts, promoted Austin musicians, and brought attention to the unique musical heritage we have in the city." Under Wheat, an expert on Texas music and a musician himself, the Center has accumulated nearly 3,000 posters that make up the Texas Poster Art Collection, including examples of the finest music posters ever produced in the Lone Star State.
The digitization project drew heavily on works in four of the Briscoe Center's poster archives: Duane Albrecht, Soap Creek Saloon, Texas
Poster Art, and Armadillo World Headquarters. The Center's music posters include those created for Antone's, Castle Creek, the Continental Club, and Austin's Sixth Street dance clubs that
Frank Kozik, Surgery, Cherubs, 1992. Texas Poster Art Collection, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin; TPA_0169. © Frank Kozik/Briscoe Center for American History.
operated in the 1980s and 1990s. "The artists of the later posters," Wheat said, "produced gritty and bizarre imagery in their designs." Under his direction, the Texas Poster Art Collection continues to expand to include representative posters by today's artists, many of whom use software such as PhotoShop to create their work.