EMEK: An Interview with the Iconic '90s LA Music Poster Artist, Signing Tomorrow at Mr. Musichead
Emek's typically detailed artwork for Erykah Badu
Not all of us are as audacious or as talented to only be known by one name, but there is an LA-born poster maker who gets away with being both. You may recognize EMEK's work from the LA Weekly's political art pages in 2004, but more likely from the early Coachella posters and the myriad of rock and roll art he produced in the '90s.
EMEK helped usher back the popularity of rock poster art and perhaps reminded us of its cultural importance right on the heels of iTunes and the impending disappearance of "the album cover".
In his new book, Collected Works of Aarght! (Ginko Press) EMEK's macho rock sensibilities are evident in the extensive projects he has filed with Queens of the Stone Age, TOOL and Nine Inch Nails. However, his collaborations with Eryka Badu and an exquisitely intelligent Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds "Map" show his ability to soften and extend his reach to other audiences.
EMEK's favorite subject matter includes skeletons, nature, industrial contraptions and a political combination thereof. His painstaking, hand-drawn detail work harkens back to Rick Griffin's psychedelic Fillmore posters of the sixties, albeit with a punk rock edge, earning him praise from early artists like Stanley Mouse and Art Chantry as well as his contemporaries Frank Kozik and Shepard Fairey.
EMEK will be signing regular and laser etched copies of his new book, "Collected Works of Aaarght", Saturday, Dec 4, 2010, at Mr Musichead Gallery, 7511 W Sunset Blvd, 7-10pm. Original art and prints will be on display at the gallery through Dec 18th.
We spoke to EMEK, who was preparing for his signing event at Mr Musichead tomorrow.
Inspired by your fossil piece for The Flaming Lips, I have to ask, do you watch TV?
My parents made a conscious decision to throw out the TV when I was young, but they encouraged my brother and sister and I to experiment and create with all varieties of art media and book reading instead. We never felt we missed out on anything and subsequently, we are all professional artists now.
Of course, now I watch Nick at Night obsessively to try to recapture my lost childhood.
If you weren't making art, what would you be doing?
What was the first thing you ever drew?
The first drawing I ever spent a lot of time on...my parents saved. It's an anatomically correct skeleton with a penis. I still have it.
What was the first concert you saw?
Growing up, my parents were friends with a lot of artists and musicians, so I went to a lot of performances at a young age without thinking it was a big deal. Jackson Browne, Peter Paul and Mary... it was fun to listen to the music and hang out backstage.
The first concert I went to on my own, I snuck out to see The Descendents.
If you got stranded on a deserted island, what album (yes, album), would you have with you?
I'm so glad you asked, it just so happens I was recently stranded off the coast of the Seychelles - a long story. Thank goodness I had my Justin Bieber megamix.
Honestly though, it changes every day - yesterday it could of been the Clash's Sandinista, today maybe The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs and tomorrow maybe the best of Blaxploitation soundtracks.
What's your favorite poster done or not done by you?
My posters are my babies...so I hate them all...but really, I always make my next poster my favorite. I love the deceiving simplicity of Small Stakes (designer Jason Munn) posters.
What's your fantasy concert lineup and what would the art concept be for the poster?
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Conceptually, the duality of them then and now -- young and old, dreams realized or unfulfilled. I like making posters for some of my cultural heroes.
Why did you leave LA for Portland?
LA has been very good to me, and there is still so much to immerse yourself in there. But once I realized that I could do my art from anywhere with internet and Fedex, especially once we had kids, I wanted to move somewhere with less traffic, less pollution, more greenery, more water, a large backyard, etc. The young energy of Portland, lots of artists and musicians and families, feels very positive. I still visit or do business in LA about 4 times a year or more.
How do you see your work evolving? I notice many sculptures and
installations in the book, as well as new videos on You Tube.
After doing hundreds of silk screened posters, I asked myself, how can I still make art but incorporate some of the cool things that I saw my parents doing in their studios while we were growing up? Posters still make up the majority of my output, but I have managed to incorporate embossing, lasercutting, embroidery, resin casting, burning and other experimental printing techniques into my work to keep things fresh. My motivation is to mix it up and see what happens.
What are you working on right now?
Helping my dad build a tree house for my kids.