Because—as we all know—the appreciation of any piece of artwork is subjective, Limited Paper totally recognizes that the series we’ve been running this week (The Top 20 Posters of 2012) might be the most pointless thing we’ve ever spent a serious amount of time considering, but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been a tremendous amount of fun: the first two parts of our list (part one here and part two here) resulted in some of the most enjoyable, friendly debates that Limited Paper’s had via email all year. Yes, it’s pointless to “rank” art, but as the saying (I just made up) goes, “If there’s one thing collectors love doing more than collecting, it’s debating about the things they collect.”
Today, we’re here to pull double-duty: first, we’re going to finish off our Top 20 Posters of 2012 list by naming the year’s five best prints…and then we’re gonna tell you which artist we thought was the year’s “Most Vital”. Wanna find out who made the cut? Meet me after the jump, folks.
Folks, by now you should know what we’re here to do (see the links above if you’d like to get caught up, or to read more about how we determined which 20 prints would end up making our list), so let’s not waste a lot of time getting sidetracked with pointless chit-chat. You’re here to find out which five prints we considered the year’s best, and we’re here to tell you which artist we thought turned out the most consistently great, must-own work. Sounds like we’ve both got a job to do, so let’s do it, starting with the year’s fifth-best screenprint:
5. Tyler Stout—Reservoir Dogs (Variant)
Tyler Stout—a name so well-recognized in the world of poster-collecting that it’s frequently used in eBay auction titles that have nothing to do with Tyler Stout’s work—has long-since cemented his status as one of the greatest living screenprint/poster artists. Even if you’d quibble with that (who are you?), you’ll probably agree that he’s certainly one of the greatest artists to have produced work under the Mondo umbrella.
In fact, I’ll submit the following theory: it’s probably fair to suggest that there are now more people that have – at the very least– seen a Mondo poster somewhere than there are those who haven’t, and I’d be willing to bet that when those people picture or describe a Mondo poster to someone later, they’re picturing something by Tyler Stout. That’s how impactful Stout has been on the industry, and how integral he’s been to the building of the Mondo brand.
Did we see as many new Stout prints in 2012 as we would’ve hoped we’d see this year? Eh, perhaps not. Is that a bit of a bummer? Sure. But the artists whose work I love aren’t the same guys who seem able to pump out a new poster every other week: they’re meticulous and thoughtful, determined to keep me (and every other fan who worships at their feet) on their toes with clever layouts and images we’d be proud to hang on our walls. The result, of course, is that their work is always a cut above the competition, and thus worth the wait. Case in point? Stout’s Reservoir Dogs. I dunno how long it took Stout to create this piece, but if we had to go a few extra months without a new Stout in order to get it, I can live with that.
4. Olly Moss—Lord of The Rings
By now, you don’t need to be told how clever Olly Moss is, how striking his artwork is in person, how singular his presence is in Poster World (seriously: find me anyone who’s producing similar-looking artwork that’s even remotely similar in quality), or how good his Lord of The Rings print—a late addition to the Top 20 Posters of 2012 list—is. You already know all this.
But look closer at this poster. Look for the little Gollum hidden on the sword’s hilt, right above the Fellowship. Consider how insanely crafty Moss had to be to factor all of these elements into a single image that wouldn’t just make sense…but would seem simple and bold. Take a look at the other Lord of The Rings-themed prints released by Mondo this year, and marvel at how effortlessly this poster seems to blow those out of the water (Limited Paper personal exception: I think Aaron Horkey’s Return of The King variant is equal to Olly’s piece).
Olly Moss is—not to put too fine a point on it—a master. Which makes it incredibly surreal when you meet him and realize that he’s pretty much just another twenty something British guy with a passion for video games, having a few beers, and watching genre movies until he’s blue in the face (or, in Olly’s words, “just another right cheeky bastard”). The guy’s talent is immeasurable and he released a number of great prints this year, but this one…this was the crown jewel, as far as Limited Paper was concerned.
3. Ken Taylor—20,000 Leagues Under The Sea
When this poster was revealed allll the way back in the first quarter of 2012, it knocked everyone flat on their ass. Ken Taylor—an artist we’re convinced is Australia’s way of saying “Look, we’re really sorry about Yahoo Serious (and, for that matter, the past 10 years of Russell Crowe’s career)”— didn’t just knock this one out of the park: he knocked it into a neighboring star system…where a number of his posters ended up joining it throughout the year.
I’ll go ahead and spoil the surprise now for anyone that’s genuinely reading along: Ken Taylor’s our “Most Vital Artist, 2012”, and it’s posters like this (and a dozen other prints he released this year) that make it possible for us to make that announcement without having to put forth much of an argument—just look at that damn thing (pro-tip: if you turn a large blacklight on the variant edition of this print in a very dark room, the results are mindblowing enough to cause acid flashbacks…even amongst those who’ve never even ingested LSD).
2. Martin Ansin—Brazil
When Mondo opened up the Mondo Gallery back during SXSW 2012, most people had no idea what to expect. Some had seen the outside of the place and had a good idea about the size of its interior, but what sort of new posters were they gonna open the joint with? A big clue arrived in the form of the VIP invitations that went out a few weeks before the gallery’s opening: on the front of those cards was one of the ear-slugs from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan…and it had been drawn by Tyler Stout. A Star Trek-themed show, perhaps? An all-Tyler-Stout extravaganza? Maybe a Ricardo Montolban blow-out (a “Montolblow-out”)?
As it turned out, the show was sci-fi themed (ohhhh,yeah…that makes much more sense), and featured what was—at the time—the greatest number of new posters ever released by Mondo at the same time on the same day. That even was memorable for any number of firsts (the first time I met a few of my favorite Mondo artists in-person; the first time a giant line that formed outside the gallery days in advance; the first time I dropped over $1,000 at a gallery event), but I’ll never forget it as the place where I first saw Ansin’s Brazil poster.
Because of the line out front, those of us attending the “Press Opening” were ushered in through the back a few hours prior to the public opening, which meant that we were looking at the layout of the gallery backwards: up front, Stout’s Wrath of Khan was set to be the first thing attendees would see upon entering, but from our perspective…Ansin’s Brazil was the first print I saw upon entering that back door. It literally stopped me in my tracks, and in the months since I’ve spent an absurd amount of time looking at it from my office desk, gobsmacked by the perfection of its layout and the richness of its colors.
There’s been some concern lately about Ansin’s style evolving to feel more painterly and less illustrated. Brazil seems to be the poster that landed in-between these two phases, and seems like the perfect mixture of styles to me. If he’s determined to come down on one side or the other, I hope he’ll return to the bold, flowing linework that marked posters like his Bride of Frankenstein or Dracula…but even if he doesn’t, this was a helluva way to usher out the old and bring in the new. A gorgeous piece that should be on every collector’s wall.
1. Ken Taylor—Halloween
We’re going to be talking about Ken Taylor’s work even more here in just a second, but for now let’s focus our attentions on this print, Taylor’s poster for John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween. This print—as you’ll surely recall—was only available at a special screening of that film (which benefited the Deborah Hill Foundation) that was held in Los Angeles by the Mondo guys all the way back in October. In other words, it was incredible difficult for the average collector to get their hands on, a fact that—if we’re being honest—only adds to the poster’s overall attractiveness.
The work Taylor turned in here is pitch-perfect: creepy and menacing without being gory or overtly violent, classy without being too stark, jam-packed with personality without being crammed with characters (just look at those leaves!). Taylor’s Halloween is a poster so good, it seems to declare a moratorium on any future Halloween posters. Who could possibly need another take on this film after Taylor’s version?
There was some debate (amongst our tiny panel of judges) as to whether or not Taylor’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea should’ve made this spot instead. The crew was about half-and-half on the issue, and I served as the tie-breaker: depending on my mood, they probably are interchangeable, but really…once you’re in the top five on a list like this, virtually any of the picks might move around. The tiny difference here is that we knew Taylor genuinely deserved the number one spot based on his invaluable contribution to the poster industry this year…which is why I’m also naming Ken Taylor as Limited Paper’s Most Vital Artist, 2012.
Naming someone as the year’s “Best Artist” is even sillier than naming the year’s “Top 20 Posters”: it’s so subjective that it borders on ludicrous to even write such an opinion up. Sure, if everyone else were writing up their picks for the “Year’s Best Artist”, maybe then it’d make sense to have my say…but as far as I know, that’s not happening, which made it feel weird to go forward with that title. Sooner or later, I realized a fill-in-the-blank question could finally work this out. I told myself, “I may not think Ken Taylor’s the ‘best’ artist on this top 20, but I do think he’s the…what?”
That’s when it all clicked. From where I’m standing, Ken Taylor was the most vital artist of 2012, the guy who—more often than not—dropped prints that your collection couldn’t be complete without. There were several stretches in 2012 where it felt like Taylor may have actually started taking artistic steroids: his posters have always been high-quality, eye-catching, and popular amongst collectors, but this year Taylor stepped up his game in epic, thrilling, not-to-be-missed ways. It was impossible not to notice, and when—on top of everything else he’d done this year– Taylor’s Halloween became one of Quarter Four’s most sought-after prints, it seemed inevitable he’d take our top spot for the year.
The Gremlins poster we’ve got pictured above, by the way, isn’t from 2012: that one actually dropped at a screening held by the Mondo guys last Christmas, but—looking back—one wonders if we shouldn’t have taken that as a sign of things to come: in retrospect, the Gremlins poster is so strong that it seems to suggest that Taylor was either deeply energized and/or inspired by the material…or perhaps he was just flexing his artistic muscles, giving us a glimpse of the work he was prepared to churn out during the year ahead? I mean, let’s be clear: Taylor’s always been a badass (See Also: his Aliens piece, above, which was released back in 2009; I’d be willing to trade some serious shit for a copy of this if you’ve got one lying around…hint, hint, readers), but his 2012 output showcased a guy firing on all cylinders way more often than any of his contemporaries were. He dominated entire stretches of the year with prints like Drive, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, his Tarantino “collage”, and more than a few amazing gig posters. Entire ISO lists were dedicated to his work (and I should know).
Bottom line? Ken Taylor killed it this year, and we can’t wait for him to rock all of our lame asses with whatever he’s got planned for 2013. Congratulations, Ken: you can stop by and pick up your trophy from Limited Paper HQ next time you’re in Austin. If you are, in fact, Australia’s way of apologizing for Young Einstein and A Good Year, tell the Australian PM all is forgiven (Crowe’s singing during Les Mis, however, might require that you knock out a Bladerunner poster for us or something).
That about does it, folks! As always, you can sound off in the comments below if you’ve got something important to add, or—if you’re an artist or gallery with artwork you’d like to see featured on Limited Paper (or if you’re just some lucky bastard who happened to overhear a bit of poster-related gossip while standing in the bushes outside Martin Ansin’s house) –you can email Limited Paper directly at LimitedPaper@gmail.com. Be sure that you’re following us on Twitter via @LimitedPaper for ongoing commentary, news updates, giveaways, and more (our 1,000 follower giveaway oughtta be coming up soon)! Oh, and between you and me: I’ve got one last giveaway to announce this year, but only you’re gonna know about that—no one else reads to the bottom. Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow afternoon.