A graphic gig

For two alumni, it’s not about making a living ” it’s about creating posters that rock

An undulating Lucifer-like tail swirls above two bulging eyes and a gaping black pit of a mouth and its 18 savage teeth. The image dominates a gig poster advertising the band Melt Banana’s 7th Street Entry performance.

Though typically stapled to street posts and cluttered entryways of music stores, 120 graphically exhilarating gig posters ” advertisements for upcoming concerts ” have found a home on the pristine white walls of the exhibit “Post No Bills: Gig Posters of the Twin Cities.”

University alumnus Steve Tenebrini created the Melt Banana poster’s monster as a reflection of his own art and the band’s sound. He’s one of two University alumni among the three local design firms and eight local poster artists who make up “Post No Bills.”

Tenebrini and Adam Turman don’t work together, but their art and careers have followed strikingly similar paths. In 1993 they shared a drawing class in the University’s old art building. Today their work occupies adjacent space on the gallery wall.

The two differ in their approach to projects. Tenebrini, a self-proclaimed “pack rat,” consults his eclectic library of reference material ” including a collection of illustrated Bibles and Web sites with catalogs of monkey skulls and bird wings ” to find an image that resonates with the band.

In Japanese rock band Melt Banana’s case, this meant creating an illustration reminiscent of the Technicolor cousin of “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” to portray the band’s “crazy and chaotic” sound.

Turman’s graphics gravitate toward something slightly sinister, catching you off guard at the last moment.

“Everything will be pure and happy,” Turman said of his work, “but something’s on fire.”

His poster for Veruca Salt is evidence of this approach. In it, a Betty Crocker-esque housewife wears a shiny coif and bright smile while holding a cherry pie. A symbol of wholesome family values? Perhaps. But she’s hidden a crowbar in the sweet red filling.

Both artists spent more than the traditional four years as University undergraduates.

“I was kind of on the 10-year plan,” said Tenebrini, who graduated with a painting and illustration Bachelor of Arts degree in 2000. Turman graduated in 1999 after six years earning a Bachelor of Science in graphic design.

Both artists hold conventional 9-5 design jobs. Tenebrini works at Hanley Wood, a marketing agency downtown. Turman designs promotional materials for the University’s marketing department in a building kitty-corner from where he graduated.

These jobs are just covers ” necessary evils to provide a steady income and benefits that allow them to support themselves while they pursue their true passions after hours, Tenebrini and Turman said.

Both artists also are members of Squad 19, a design collective Tenebrini started in 2001. Squad 19 is a group of designers and poster artists whose collaborative work can be found everywhere.

That is, until the day after a given show, when etiquette allows fans to pilfer the posters for their private collections ” or bedroom walls.

Despite their different approaches, Tenebrini and Turman’s posters illustrate their ultimate similarity. Both create designs that function as both art and advertisement. They look equally at home fluttering down to a cracked sidewalk, carefully hung on a white gallery wall or tacked on the ceiling above a fan’s bed.

” A&E editor Jenna Ross welcomes comments at [email protected]