Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

Allen Ruppersberg’s project for the High Line (Image courtesy the High Line)

If you walked down the High Line in the past month or two, chances are your eyes were caught by a garish grid of painted posters that slapped heavy black text on top of bright gradients of color. The project was Allen Ruppersberg’s billboard “You & Me,” and the posters were in the signature style of Los Angeles’s Colby Poster Printing Co, which, after serving artists like Ed Ruscha and Ruppersberg for decades, recently shut down on December 31, 2012.

Ed Ruscha’s commission from the Colby Printing Co (Image via

The Los Angeles–based organization ForYourArt is memorializing the poster company with an exhibition called In the Good Name of the Company, displaying a slew of examples from the printer’s iconic history. It’s a unique cultural presence, and not just for artists — the message left on the company’s voicemail, from president Glenn Hinman, simply states, “We do not have referrals for the unique style of printing we are known for … Thank you for being wonderful people. Have a good future.”

The Colby Printing Company began in 1948 as a neighborhood operation that promoted local happenings like street fairs, concerts, and political campaigns with eye-catching flyers. Then, in 1962, Ed Ruscha commissioned the company to create the announcement for his exhibition New Painting of Common Objects at the Pasadena Art Museum.

“The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl” by Allen Ruppersberg (All images courtesy ForYourArt unless otherwise noted)

That image, with its heavy, sans-serif typeface and straight-faced announcement of a show that includes artists like Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, is characteristic of the company’s creations, but it also seems to embody the Pop aspirations and strategies of the time, appropriating a vernacular form and recontextualizing it.

By providing a readymade style and an effective production strategy for posters, the company helped artists move beyond the gallery and reach out to the wider aesthetic world. Ruppersberg used the company to transcribe Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl” into phonetics while Cody Hudson used its hazy bands of color to evoke surreal states. Elsewhere in ForYourArt’s exhibition are displays drawn directly from the printer’s archive; examples of swap meet announcements, medical marijuana delivery ads, and carnival promotions abound.

Below, check out some more examples of artist-designed posters and the day-to-day signage that made Colby Poster Printing Company famous.

Installation view of “In the Good Name of the Company”

Installation view of “In the Good Name of the Company”

Installation view of “In the Good Name of the Company”

Installation view of “In the Good Name of the Company”

Installation view of “In the Good Name of the Company”

Poster from the Colby archive

“If Only God Had Invented Coca Cola, Sooner! Or, The Death of My Pet Monkey” (2004) by Daniel Joseph Martinez

“Untitled” poster by Sam Durant

In the Good Name of the Company continues through March 23 at ForYourArt (6020 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles).

The Latest

The Wisdom of The Sopranos 14 Years Later

“The impossibility of reforming Tony [Soprano] bears some resemblance to the crisis plaguing museums and toxic philanthropy today, where a culture of bullying and exploitation belies programming of socially- and politically-engaged art.”

Decolonizing the (Sitcom) Museum

What does Rutherford Falls, a new TV series that prominently features two small town museums, tell us about the way people see the contentious stories on display in history and art institutions?

Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators Project,...

2 replies on “The Artistic Heritage of an LA Poster Shop on Display”

Comments are closed.