May 29, 2015
In March 2012, we hosted the lovely Eleanor Friedberger for a residency and concert, and asked Thumb Projects to design her show poster. Luke Bulman, of Thumb, had the posters printed at the iconic LA print house Colby Printing, which specialized in metal and wood typefaces. The posters were beautiful (see our previous blog post from that time, “The Greatest Show Posters Ever”) (we are nothing if not exuberant/hyperbolic).
Randomly, while searching for a poster we saw on Instagram, we stumbled upon In the Good Name of the Company, an exhibition of works from Colby Printing, organized by ForYourArt, curated by Jan Tumlir, with Christopher Michlig and Brian Roettinger. We realized that Colby had closed in December 2012 (!), just nine months after printing our Eleanor posters. From ForYourArt’s press release on the show:
The Los Angeles based Colby Poster Printing Company has long been a friend to local artists. Their fluorescent posters have been disseminated on every available high-traffic-adjacent surface in the city. Their extensive collection of over 150 wood and metal typefaces, usually bold and generally san serif, are by now an integral part of the visual aesthetic of Los Angeles. Throughout the years, posters promoting everything from west coast punk and heavy metal concerts in the 1980s to swap meets, street fairs, gun and bridal shows, local political campaigns, and too many artist projects to mention have been printed on Colby’s restless Heidelberg letterset press. A family owned and operated union print shop since 1948, the Colby Poster Printing Company closed its doors forever on December 31, 2012.
We are posthumously (and deeply, and deeply belatedly) mourning the loss of Colby, by trolling the Internet for all Colby details and images (a rainbow explosion for your eyes), and happened upon this great video about the company from MOCA, and this great article. Especially liked this quote:
Part of what makes the Colby posters interesting is that the employees of the company had no formal training in graphic design—they were members of the letterpress union, the screen printers union, and the typesetters union. “They were kind of naïve, breaking what most typographers would think is every rule,” [curator Brian] Roettinger says. They mixed typefaces and consistently used all caps.
But this lowbrow approach resulted in a minimal, bold, and no-nonsense aesthetic that was always eye-catching and surprising.
You can mourn with us collectively three years after the fact, and buy our remaining Eleanor Friedberger posters here. RIP Colby (and thanks to Thumb Projects for giving us the chance to be part of history).