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Remembering Colby Poster Printing Company

Remembering Colby Poster Printing Company

Many New Yorkers may not know this but The High Line’s February art show Allen Rupperberg’s You & Me is an inadvertent memorial to now shuttered Los Angeles institute Colby Poster Printing Company. Ruppersberg’s colorful poster work is of a very specific and Californian conceptual art that fused art proper with the ideas of advertising, the world of print, and “low art.” Local art folks For Your Art have a show happening that celebrates Colby too but in a very direct way: In the Good Name of the Company, a celebration and remembering of Colby’s work.

Taking representations of posters and unframed editions, the work of artists like Kathryn Andrews, Scott Benzel, Eve Fowler, Ed Ruscha, Allen Ruppersberg, and more are displayed as a window into a LA visual culture. The style of these posters–the bright, hyper-color backdrops with thick black lettering–are known throughout the world and have often been confused for something more than a printer’s style: their eye grabbing look suggests they are from somewhere more profound than a common printer. That is exactly why Colby was so beloved, too.

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A Difference Of Very Little Difference, Eve Fowler. 2011.

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Left: The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg (Part 1) (detail), Allen Ruppersberg. 2003.; Right: If Only God Had Invented Coca Cola, Sooner! Or, The Death of My Pet Monkey, Daniel Joseph Martinez. 2004.

Colby closed its doors in late December of 2012 after very short notice that the institution had gone on sale. These posters and this style are so ingrained in Los Angeles culture that its hard to imagine that they could disappear. They feel so ubiquitous and a common that the people and place they come from are forgotten. Now, we may not see very many posters like this again (…unless someone bought the brand and plans to revive it).

In the Good Name opened this past Saturday and will be on view FYA’s Wilshire location through March 23. You can see some examples of the work above and some photos that tour the space and give a glimpse at where they came from. If you are in New York, the Allen Ruppersberg show is open through February 28 and is a wonderful look at Los Angeles’ most beloved printer’s handicraft.

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Photos of Colby by Joshua White.

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