Houston Press: Pinup Guy

 In Interviews

Poster artist Jermaine Rogers isn’t always in concert with critics
Houston Press, January 2003

Jermaine Rogers had no formal art training, but in 1995 the Houston poster artist made the bold move of quitting a menial day job to hawk his bills around town, mostly for shows at Numbers. Work was so hard to come by that he had to sell the originals of those early concert posters just to pay for groceries.

“When I first started…nobody knew who Jermaine was,” says the artist. But today Rogers is a big-name concert poster innovator who has worked with such major acts as Radiohead, Tool, the Chemical Brothers and Tori Amos. He’s also created artwork for magazines and newspapers (including the Houston Press), CD covers, video games and movie sets. And there even are rumors that Tom Green may use some of Rogers’s work in an upcoming film.

One of the reasons for Rogers’s success is that his posters have a distinctive look. He pushes the boundaries of traditional poster art, discarding the flaming hot rods and big-breasted devil-girls in favor of fresher images. Influenced by ’50s comic book artist Graham Ingels, Rogers uses a bold-line technique to evoke emotion, from the haunting eyes of his human characters to the sinister expressions of his lifelike teddy bears.

While Rogers recognizes the disposability of concert posters, he believes his art will last because the music itself will stand the test of time. “I just don’t want to use it as a throwaway art, which I believe some artists have done in the past — to them, it’s all sex, drugs and rock and roll,” he says. “We are the first art that en masse has attached itself to these bands. Can you imagine Mozart event posters with abstract artwork that reflected what the people of the day were all about?”
Recently, Rogers has started to cross over into the more traditional medium of painting. During the last year, he did a series of acrylics depicting historical figures like Oscar Wilde and Leo Tolstoy. After selling the works, he realized the drawback of one-of-a-kind art: Once it’s sold, it’s gone.

So he’s started using parts of his paintings in some of his concert posters, a controversial move. Critics say the posters promote art exhibits rather than the rock and roll shows. Even so, Rogers’s recent Coldplay concert poster, which uses the partial image of a face from one of his paintings, sold out long before the band got to town.

“What I’m trying to do is join the two together,” he says. “Whoever wants to buy the painting has the painting, but everyone else can at least enjoy the image on a poster.”

What may be most enjoyable, though, is the sense of humor that pops up in Rogers’s posters. In a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion bill, a T-shirt reads, “I gave 10 years of my life to Enron and all I got was this T-shirt.” And in a poster for a Strokes concert, the artist pokes fun at himself. “This message has been brought to you by AACP ‘Artists Against Concert Posters’ cuz this stuff ain’t art!” As Rogers well knows, many people would disagree.