On Saturday, May 7th, 2023 we unexpectedly lost artist Frank Kozik. Kozik is known for his album covers and concert posters for bands such as Queens of the Stone Age, The Melvins, Nirvana, The Offspring, Beastie Boys and so many others. He was considered part of the late 90s Stuckist movement, but his art reaches back to the early 80s when he began working in the Austin, TX area. Join us as we take a look at the force of nature that was Frank Kozik.
Frank Kozik was born in 1962 in Madrid, Spain to an American service worker and Spanish mother. When he was 15 he moved to Sacramento, where he lived until joining the Air Force and was stationed in Austin, TX. He was later honorably discharged and went on to work as a doorman and started making posters for underground bands in the Austin area. In the early 80s, he began designing black and white punk flyers for friends’ bands. Some of his early work included posters for Butthole Surfers.
Kozik, a self-taught artist, says his work was influenced by living under dictator Franco in Spain. It’s easy to see that Americana inspired his art, warped by the distance of his early life abroad.
Like many of his peers, he was fascinated with the underground art of Ed Roth and its intersection with hot rod culture of the 1960s. But at the same time, the surrealist elements of Robert Crumb and Underground Comix, mixed with the dark humor of the burgeoning punk scene of the 70s and into the 1980s. For a Spanish-born artist, nothing felt more uniquely American than his work.
Kozik was quoted in 2018 as saying, “I was a no-education loser person, and was definitely into hedonistic experiences. While I have an appreciation of fine art and I understand it, I was going to punk rock shows, not college nor museums. All of the stuff that really turned my crank was that stuff, and it was all stuff that we could kind of reproduce in our own lives; we could get a shitty car and drive around real fast, and we could hang out with fun people and party… and a lot of that stuff is really visually arresting. It’s all power imagery, and it really gets basic impulses across: sex, drugs, violence, weird shit.”
One of his early-known pieces was this Red Hot Chili Peppers 1989 piece for their shows in Houston & Austin, which shows that pin-up car culture side of his art.
Even earlier than that is his 1987 Sonic Youth poster. The band was still on SST Records on tour in support of their album “Sister.”
To round out the 80s Kozik worked on this NWA poster for their appearance at Heritage Center in Austin, TX. At this point, Ice-Cube was still with the group but would be leaving, along with Arabian Prince, by the end of the year.
In 1993, Frank moved to San Francisco and two years later began his own record label, Man’s Ruin Records, which ran until 2001, where he then turned his focus to art toys, collaborating with KidRobot and so many other brands.
Going back to his art in 1993, one of his most known would be this Nirvana show at Astro Arena in Houston, TX. The event featured The Breeders and Japan’s Shonen Knife. This poster is emblematic of his 90s work, with childlike imagery but with dark undertones upon further inspection.
The poster is also sought after for being a late Nirvana concert, not long before Kurt’s untimely passing.
Honestly, the list goes on and on.
So let’s just share some more of his work.
Beastie Boys 1992
Soundgarden & Pearl Jam 1992
Neil Young & Pearl Jam 1993
Green Day 1996
Artist Mike King had this to say:
As best I can recall the first Frank Kozik poster I ever saw in person was a Sebadoh poster featuring a blood stained Boo Boo Bear looking up at a crucified Christ.
Though I wasn’t quite sure what he was saying, it certainly made an impression and I was inspired by how he was saying it.
Stupid, ugly and confusing imagery of a culture in decline, reimagined and thrown back in the face of the world that spawned it, presented in the loudest colors with the biggest type.
This was the exact opposite of the needlessly happy feel good vibes of the sixties psychedelic poster art I despised.
Not only was he making crazy posters for bands I cared about, he developed a “business model” many of us attempted to replicate; print some posters, give copies to the promoter, some to the band, and sell what was left in hopes of covering the expenses of making the damn things with a few bucks to spare.
He offered advice and encouragement to a whole group of artists who got to know him online through gigposters(dot)com and in person at various Flatstock events.
Over the years we hung out several times, and as best I could tell, we enjoyed each other’s company.
Frank was a kind and generous man, disguised as an asshole
I was happy to know him.
Safe journey my friend, Vahalla awaits”
Perry Shall (artist for Easy Eye Sound and renowned t-shirt collector) had this to say on Twitter:
I cannot express how much of an impact Kozik and his era of art had on me as a kid. I would see these familiar cartoon characters I already knew, loved and practiced drawing. Except they looked crazed now, holding knives or giant needles, smoking weed, being bad and whatnot…
But it always went back to him. He went beyond his own artwork, his label or bands he worked with.
We only spoke a few times but when he found out I was a crazy t-shirt collector, he asked me to look out for him for a vintage Grimace tee & I’ve had a saved search for em since.
I’ll find it for ya one day Frank. RIP.”
Additionally, artist JP Flexner had this to say:
“Frank, thanks for talking about posters, and art, and design on gigposters with us back in the day.
You made yourself available to (at the time) kids like me. You were honest and snarky, but always respectful. Your advice always meant a lot.
Frank is survived by his wife, Sharon, who said,
“He dramatically changed the industry he was a part of. He was a creative force of nature. We are so beyond lucky and honored to have been part of his journey, and he will be missed beyond what words could ever express.
He loved his wife, his cats, classic muscle cars, mentoring others, and Disneyland. His forceful presence will be missed by all who knew him. His legacy, like all great masters, will live on through his art and our memories of him.”
it’s impossible to condense the life of such an influential person into one short article, so I’m not even going to try. Bob Nickas, editor of Index Magazine said, “His work almost single-handedly revived poster art in the 1980s.”
His style is just ultimately his own & when you see a Kozik you know damn well you’re looking at a Kozik. And if there’s any justice in the world, surrounding his passing, at the very least, his art remains with us forever.
For that, I’m extremely lucky for even being alive during a time to witness his impact.
I lived in Austin in the 90s and routinely snagged show posters off streetlights after the show date had passed (still have them, too!). Looks like the only Kozik I have is for a local funk band called Retarted Elf. It’s actually a variation of the last poster you have here, but instead of holding a carving fork in his left hand, the kid is pointing at a tab of acid on his tongue. Black and white, too.
Kozik also had a giant painting at Emo’s, one of the busiest places on 6th street. It featured a dominatrix Pebbles from the Flintstones menacing a hog-tied Dino, who seemed to be enjoying himself.
Also saw the Austin show for the ’92 Soundgarden/Pearl Jam mini-tour. I remember wanting to buy a poster after the show, but, being a broke college student, I didn’t have the funds after scraping together $12 (!) for the ticket….