By 1992, Seattle grunge was long past its early years and well into the public eye, thanks to MTV and everything else. I, for one, was wearing flannel shirts and torn jeans. And for all the shows I went to see—Soundgarden and Pearl Jam among them—Frank Kozik was right there making art that placed grunge in the same arena as the Summer of Love, with exactly 25 years in between.
Kozik was actually born in Madrid, Spain in 1962, right at the end of the Baby Boomer’s run. By the time he was 14, he was living in Austin, Texas where, by the mid-’80s, he was designing posters for the underground punk scene there. So consider how Kozik himself reported in Maxim that the above Soundgarden / Pearl Jam poster sold once for $5,000! And it took him, he confesses, 20 minutes to make.
When Kozik made this poster for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1989 (the year I graduated high school, and by then I’d heard of the Chili Peppers in a cursory way) this throwback to the Sixties has two elements to it: one, the design with the bubble lettering, etc. and, two, and the more ominous of the two the image of the woman, none other than the murdered Sharon Tate, one of the more horrific aspects of the ’60s.
One of the most recognizable of Kozik images is the “cute animal” made morbid. Take, for example, a fitting image for a show that featured all of the above: the Beastie Boys (the 92, tour, I saw them!), Cypress Hill, and the Rollins Band. In New Orleans! Imagine. The mind reels. Anyway, note the joint-smoking, machine-gunning, what, puppy? It’s utterly charming.
Speaking of which, does anyone remember the Banana Splits? It was a Hanna-Barbera show that ran from 1968-1970. I remember it in syndication. Kozik definitely remembers it, which is how this Green Day poster came into being. This is “Bingo,” whose costume was designed by the ultra-weird Sid and Marty Krofft, who went on to do all sorts of really odd shows. No surprise that the menagerie of animals were a pop band.
Kozik’s Nirvana poster—designed entirely in contra, he has said, to the moody image of Kurt Cobain so evident in those days—is justifiably one of his most famous. Whatever is going on in this image, it is at once terrifying and generously joyful. I think.
It’s the little things that tilt this reality. A missing hand replaced by a hook. The insect-cum-I don’t know, what, cute animal turned menacing insect? Everyone seems happy, none more so than the artist, clearly reveling in the colors here, the spirit of the age. And it was quite an age, wasn’t it? When L’Imagerie Gallery last had this 23 x 35-inch silkscreen in stock, it sold for $250. As Cobain’s death falls further and further into the past, and his myth finds itself more complete, imagine its value then.
Kozik’s work really took off as Alternative Music was flourishing, and he left a mark on it that the posters accentuate. It was an odd time. In Kozik’s posters, it shows