The biography of Art Chantry follows what we’ve seen in other artists. He studied painting and earned a degree in 1978 from what is now Western Washington University. He settled in Seattle at just the right time: art galleries and the punk scene were flourishing. By the time grunge came around, he was well-positioned to give shape to the way people saw Seattle. And I mean visually, literally.
The Style of Art Chantry
Nonconformity. DIY. Both of these define the style of Chantry, and it’s fully evident in this poster for The Cramps. “Trash cinema” is what he drew upon, something right out of the 1950s. You could almost imagine James Dean at the show. The poster is as simple as it gets—it’s only two colors—but the images and that lettering are perfect. Whether you went to the show or not (1997!), the poster is worth having, if you can find one. One sold on eBay in 2012 for $108.
I first saw Chantry’s work as the cover for Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love, way back. It’s a cool cover, but restrained, too. It’s the posters where he really cuts loose. For an example, take a look at this Flaming Lips poster.
Looking like an ad coming right out of a newspaper, and that due to the halftone printing common in newspapers, it is, like the Cramps poster, deceptively simple: two colors ignite the image, at once erotic and vintage. It’s that pink that draws the eye, and the whole thing calls to mind pulp fiction. Again, the names of the bands—and the fact that Moe is here is funny and fitting—add to the image’s provenance.
Chantry’s Midcentury Looks
We’ve seen the vintage look in other poster makers I’ve written about. Here’s Chantry’s take on the midcentury look.
This poster for the Ventures, again only two colors, does a lot with very little. The hand is deft in its vintage look, rendered to perfection. The child too, and that unequal triangle he holds, is right out of the fifties. Yellow and black work well together anyway, but here they just set each other off like firecrackers.
Here’s a show that was likely a bit, you know, “different.” A show for the Bellingham punk band The Mono Men and Milwaukee band The Carpetbaggers that was also a pajama party. Again, notice the classic midcentury design.
Let’s take a look at his work for at least one Seattle Band: the eminent Pearl Jam.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity, as Thoreau said. The colors have expanded to four here, and they are arranged just right to indicate what looks a lot like a flag underlying the image and drawing attention to the yellow letters at the center. By this point, Pearl Jam had already been around for a while, and they had produced four albums by this point: No Code was released that summer. They were not “underground” by any measure, but they were still cool. They represented Seattle well, along with bands that by then had been huge: Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and Mudhoney (whom he also designed a cover for) chief among them.
It is said that Art Chantry defined the look of Seattle for years. Posters, it seems, have that power.