Chuck Sperry: Poster Icon

by Casey Ashlock

Chuck-Sperry-300x157 Chuck Sperry: Poster IconWhen it comes to rock poster celebrities, Chuck Sperry is an icon. Sperry has an impressive resume spanning multiple mediums and art forms. From producing America’s first underground comic, to creating screen prints for countless major acts like Eric Clapton, Madonna, and The Beatles. Sperry has spent years honing his craft of design and screen printing to become one of the world’s foremost printmakers.  Let’s take a look at some of his work below!

An icon in the making.

Sperrypyschholo-300x233 Chuck Sperry: Poster IconChuck Sperry was born on February 5th, 1962 in Dayton, Ohio. Sperry mentioned that “watching his father create art was a great inspiration to him and gave him license to explore art as a career himself.” Sperry attended art classes at Dayton’s Living Art Center and eventually graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia with a dual major in art and journalism in 1984. It was after his graduation he began designing his first punk rock flyers and handbills.

When he moved to New York City, he began co-editing the left-wing comic anthology magazine, World War 3 Illustrated. In 1994, Sperry received his first commission to design a Fillmore Auditorium poster for Bill Graham Presents in San Francisco. A relationship that would result in Sperry designing the “F1000”, the one-thousandth poster in the Fillmore series. More on this below.

Diana.

Sperrywsmfp-173x300 Chuck Sperry: Poster IconIn 2020, members of the poster website Expresso Beans voted Chuck Sperry’s “Diana” design Rock Poster of the Year. Sperry designed the poster for the jam band Widespread Panic in support of their 6 night run of shows at the Beacon Theatre in NYC during February-March of 2020. The design features “Diana,” goddess of the moon, making an offer to Venus, the evening star and goddess of love. The two planets will “kiss” in the night sky on opening night of the band’s residency at the beacon theatre.

Chuck Sperry said of the collaboration; “ I hope the rare conjunction of the Moon and Venus brings us light and love for wonderful Panic series of concerts!” The print measures 20’ x 34.5” and is a 7-color silkscreen on cream paper. There were also silver, gold, sparkle foil, lava foil, and satin black variants available.

Voyager.

Sperry311-185x300 Chuck Sperry: Poster IconThe next poster we will look at is for 311’s show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD back in 2019 in support of their newest album ‘Voyager.’ While researching, Sperry was inspired by a Jimmy Carter quote on the Voyager space mission for the design of this poster. “We cast this message into the cosmos. It is likely to survive a billion years into our future, when our civilization is profoundly altered and the surface of the Earth may be vastly changed. Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some — perhaps many — may have inhabited planets and spacefaring civilizations.”

The Fillmore 1000th poster.

Sperryf1000-300x193 Chuck Sperry: Poster IconThe final poster we will look at is the F1000 poster. Sperry was commissioned by Bill Graham Presents to design the landmark 1000th poster in the Fillmore poster series. The poster promoted The Pretenders show at the Fillmore back in 2009. Sperry was one of the first artists to use metallic inks in concert posters. His signature metallic inks were commemorated in this design by SF print house Great Impressions. Sperry, in consultation with the printer, gave this poster the “Firehouse Kustom Rockart Company touch”. Meaning the metallic ink was printed, left to dry for one day,  and then specially tinted by blue and purple. Just the right touch to celebrate a great show and 1000 great posters.

Sperry lives and works in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. He owns and operates the print-making studio called Hanger 18 in Oakland, CA. His designs continue to influence generations of poster artists to this day.

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