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 Apr 1 - 7, 2010 
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Poster Posse

The art of rock

By Samara Alpern

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

Murder By Death was coming to Albuquerque in May 2008, and Jeremy Montoya, a graphic designer and loyal fan of the band, wanted to take part. He decided to print up some posters.

Montoya and a friend, Jon “Jonito” Sanchez, outfitted his Rio Rancho garage with homemade printing equipment. Montoya sketched out a squinting, orange, ugly buzzard he thought suited the occasion, and the partners stayed up late silk-screening the image onto 40 sheets of fine art paper.

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

Until the night of the show, though, Murder By Death wasn’t in on the project. The Albuquerque artists just went to the venue, hoping the touring band would include their art with the official merchandise.

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

“We did it wrong,” says Montoya. “We just did it and showed up with these posters hoping for the best. But they were nice about it,” he adds.

Over the last few years, this impetuous dive into rock art has turned into a small industry for Montoya and Sanchez. They have since gone on to make many more posters, now working with the consent and collaboration of musical artists like Animal Collective, Neko Case, The Dandy Warhols and Calexico.

Montoya’s and Sanchez’ posters will be on display at the Blackbird Buvette through the month of April, with an opening reception on Easter Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m.

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

Sanchez and Montoya work as equal partners, taking turns selecting the band and doing the illustrations while the other serves as assistant in the printing process.

Jonito Sanchez, who earned his BFA at New Mexico State University, says the music is his muse.

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

“I’ll just listen to their songs and sketch a few ideas, come up with something that the music inspires.”

The posters Sanchez created for the brooding indie band Cursive are similarly surreal and forlorn: Hollow-eyed creatures walk in forests of twigs and dry leaves. Meanwhile, his poster for Igor & Red Elvises features airplanes in cheery kamikaze chaos.

Montoya takes a different approach. “I love to draw birds,” he says. “I love to draw weird animals in general.”

“I’ll just listen to their songs and sketch a few ideas, come up with something that the music inspires.”

Jonito Sanchez

His poster for mewithoutYou presents alien-looking hairless cats. Owls of various breeds and designs make their way into much of Montoya’s artwork.

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

Though the two alternate the illustrating, they say they still influence each other by fueling friendly competition.

“When I saw [Jonito’s] first poster,” Montoya says, “I was like, Shit, man; I got to pick it up!”

The printing takes place in Montoya’s garage with a setup they built themselves. The vacuum table, where the paper is sucked firmly into place for printing, is hooked up to a Shop-Vac, and the printed papers are hung to dry on a clothesline. But even with their rudimentary apparati, Sanchez and Montoya manage to produce intricate four-color series of the highest quality.

Jonito Sanchez
Jonito Sanchez

Besides the challenges of a homegrown operation, working in a market like Albuquerque offers some unique obstacles.

“I think the way it works in a big city, the promoter hires the artist,” Montoya explains. “But here, because we’re a small city, they don’t have to advertise as much. They don’t need us to do a fancy-pants poster.”

Jonito Sanchez
Jonito Sanchez

It takes a lot of hustle to connect with national bands and secure gigs. But, with the same spirit that motivated their first poster project, the artists are finding success. There are some local resources from which they draw strength. The two give respect to Albuquerque poster artists Delano Garcia and Jesse Philips as inspiration.

And they get support from the local music industry, as well. The night Montoya and Sanchez showed up at the Launchpad with that first poster for Murder By Death, Joe Anderson—the impresario behind Sunshine Theater, the Launchpad and Low Spirits—bought one as they walked in the door. “At the time, I didn’t even know who he was,” says Montoya. “But later, for the next show, I went to go meet with him ... and he was like, Yeah! I was your first customer.”

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya

Even though the duo is working to turn their art into a viable business, they’re still in it for the music as much as anything.

Says Sanchez, “A lot of it is, we just like the bands.”

Jeremy Montoya
Jeremy Montoya
Jonito Sanchez
Jonito Sanchez
Jonito Sanchez
Jonito Sanchez
Gig Poster Art Show

Opening reception Sunday, April 4, with music by Billy Bellmont, Chan Avery and Albert Vasquez
7 to 10 p.m.
Blackbird Buvette
509 Central NW
Show runs through April 25
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