Frequent Flier

Graphic artist Art Chantry, éminence grise of grunge, on fliers, rock music and life in St. Louis

Eschewing the cold precision of the computer, Chantry prefers to design by hand, drawing his inspiration from draftsmen such as kustom-kar kingpins Von Dutch and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, tattoo artists, comic-book artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and the commercial art of the 1940s and '50s. With his fondness for degraded typeface, photocopier-aided deterioration, clip art and industrial design, Chantry's posters manage to feel concurrently salvaged, scavenged, eroded, corroded, raw and sophisticated. They evoke a sense of some other time, but the truth is, they are artifacts of a never-time. Was the world ever this interesting? Was there ever a time when hot rods and carnival barkers and Spiderman and space monsters were jumbled together and plastered across the walls with such frantic adoration? Not as kitsch, not as an ironic commentary on modern or postmodern or antimodern life, but with a sincere love for what they are: well-crafted artistic expressions of marginalized obsessions. St. Louis -- with its slavish devotion to an early-'90s musical style (the corpse of Uncle Tupelo still fresh in many bands' collective consciousness) and its moribund downtown -- bears many similarities to Seattle (see No. 5, sidebar). Here's hoping Lasky was wrong about transplanted genius and a mutation sets in quickly, transforming Chantry from Seattle icon into some sort of hot-rodding, frozen-custard-loving archaeologist of St. Louis' weirder margins. This town doesn't need another death on its hands.

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