An eyeball isn't a hard thing to trap: a little color, a few diagonals to funnel it where you want, and then some kind of prickly, hooky image to get it good and stuck. The Russians had it down to a science in the '20s—the Stenberg posters are more fun to watch than the movies they advertised—and the Americans got pretty killer in the '50s and '60s, Saul Bass graphics dripping blood over opening credits at the drive-in. And now a tiny collective of Canadians is tearing at the face of snooty Urban Outfitters Moderne with their bare hands: all that sterile sit-there monochrome goes-nice-with-the-rug pastel is out to the fucking trash and Serigraphie Populaire (Seripop!) is happy and dirty and grinning and asking you where to start hammering up the new décor.
They started as some ambitious Montreal artists and friends, flexing their silkscreen graphics in fliers for their buddies' bands, and then more bands became their buddies and more people saw their graphics, and via the same van-to-club-to-kid-at-the-merch-table vectors that pump blood through the cloggy circulatory system of punk rock, Seripop—Chloe Lum and Yannick Desranleau—started getting RECOGNIZED. Not just as cool sheets of paper to tell you when the band is playing, but also as some serious and tough and lovely poster fucking art. Finally: the Seripop rainbow, a reason to open your eyes at a show.
It's a wild plunge right down into the lava, underneath all the good poster predecessors that we'd figured had totally crusted over: a Daughters/Chinese Stars turns Escher's famous repeating pattern of birds (unfamiliar? See Metamorphose in the Gypsy Den Santa Ana's men's room!) into a sinister Hitchcockian flock; another Chinese Stars (and God, why is there a supporting band called AIDS WOLF?) turns up the contrast on a Hannah Hoch nude and squiggles in some cartoon-y Yellow Submarine boobies. Saul Bass' golden arm turns into an ugly black foot for Numbers and Les Georges Leningrad and a ragged red-rimmed eye for an Ace Fu Records showcase, and then gets severed in a car wreck for a special "Art of Seripop" poster. Or maybe that was an Art Chantry arm; those two guys were co-conspirators, right?
And then there's the blown-out xerox brut for Xiu Xiu—looks like Die Brucke set loose on Kinko's—and the album covers for San Diego's Hot Snakes and Rocket From the Crypt (as well as Costa Mesa's own Miracle Chosuke) and the signal-jamming COUCH flier (black-power fist, rainbow pencil, punctured dick, spray of blood—huh?) and another couple of hundred freeze-framed fireworks explosions that take the formidable energy of the bands they're supposed to be working for (Seripop favors some pretty gut-ripping hardcore weirdo shit; in interviews, they say they wish they could go back in time to flier for Blue Cheer, Black Flag and Led Zeppelin AND they currently like our own Dance Disaster Movement, so we like them back THAT MUCH MORE!) and make it bright and ugly and crazy and beautiful.
When Seripop are as punchy and arresting as the May '68 riot-in-the-streets posters, they're also as giddy and colorful as a Cinemascope title sequence; when they're as intricate and meticulous as a circuit schematic, they're also as joyful and sloppy as a tub of paint slapped across a subway train. And where Shephard Fairey's constructivist paint-by-numbers just sort of rigidly sit there, Seripop's poster prints rocket off the walls—they shout and howl when the rest of the room just does the disconnected-stereo-set hum.
Their inspiration is vintage, they say. They do not get to show in galleries very much. In Canada, the established artists would get mad at them. And now they are touring—"Get in the van!" they say, like Black Flag!—and it's going to be the best thing your eyes get to suck on since the Stenberg extravaganza at the Armand Hammer way back in 1999. Pettibon was great, but he wasn't pop, and Warhol was cool for a while, but he was so spacey and weird, and Seripop is 75 years of gotta-get-'em-to-LOOK true poster love finally let out of the dark and so happy to be alive. You could stare at this stuff for hours. So much better than music.
"Get in the Van: Art of Seripop and Little Friends of Printmaking" at Koo's, 530 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 491-7584; www.koos.og. Mon., 7 p.m. Free. All ages.