Former Madisonians and Planet Propaganda designers Michael Byzewski and Dan Ibarra, better known as Aesthetic Apparatus, threw their hands up in one of the packed auditoriums of Discovery World on the lakefront of Milwaukee on Friday night. These guys don't stop. And word on the street is they won't stop.
Aesthetic Apparatus's appearance was the doing of Inkblot Academy, the design and silk-screening initiative under the aegis of Discovery World's Print and Publishing Lab directors Melissa and J.W. Buchanan, themselves known as The Friends of Printmaking and also formerly of Madison.
The guys of Aesthetic Apparatus did, in fact, start out printing in the basement of a former artists' collective on Willy Street at odd times. Their work process, Ibarra commented, "wasn't anything like it is now." Mainly because, completely self-taught, back then they had no idea what they were doing.
Having moved on to the bigger pond of the Twin Cities, Aesthetic Apparatus quickly met culture hurricane Erik Westra and clamored aboard the First Avenue gravy train. The move saw the transition in their work from a bolder 'Madison Look' to an intentionally scattered and confused Test Print Period.
It's not misleading to say Aesthetic Apparatus is all about relationships. "We've actually never done any self-promotion because [it] keeps snow-balling," says Ibarra. Having made the acquaintance of John McCrea of Cake, Byzewski and Ibarra did a poster for the Unlimited Sunshine tour -- and eventually album art for the band.
Concert posters led to toys led to DVD packaging and movie posters. Though they've done work for some of your favorite bands -- The New Pornographers and The White Stripes, anyone? -- these guys work their own merch table. They won't even shoot down people considering entering the obviously overpopulated rock poster game.
"I would encourage [people] to do it if they really love it," Ibarra says. One of the reasons someone who should logically want to shut down any and all competition likely has an attitude, as Ibarra points out, the rock posters are generally standardized. "There's no one out there who's... reinvented what concert posters do or what concert posters are," he notes.
But wait... there's more! Aesthetic Apparatus co-leads a sold out Inkblot Academy workshop on Saturday afternoon during which students will create their own concert posters for Yo La Tengo's Oct. 12 show at Discovery World. That's right, kids -- Yo La Tengo.
Courtney Becks also publishes Church of Style.