If you’ve admired the many rock posters around town, from Mudhoney at the Ogden to a Rocket From The Crypt at the Bluebird, it’s the handy work of SWAMP, a.k.a. Lindsey Kuhn. He now has a showing “Vicious Circle,” at Th’Ink Tank gallery located on 1518 Wazee Street through July 5th.
When you enter the gallery, you can’t help but take in the large walls filled with over 60 unique pieces, created in a serigraph, or silk-screening process, taking various themes from rock and roll and skull heads, to the old school skateboard lifestyle and 50’s erotica. Blending pop culture, retro comic and horror film, he infuses tongue and cheek graphics with bold to subtle colors schemes, all tied together with urban creativity.
Lindsey had already built his rock and roll reputation back in Texas, and moved to Denver around seven years ago when his friends, who were starting a record label, wanted his expertise in art direction. “Dallas was hot, and it was time to move on. So I came out here for some good skatin’ and snowboardin’ as well as the work,” Lindsey explains.
For Lindsey, skateboarding is an essential part of his lifestyle and persona. It’s also where his SWAMP moniker originated back in his hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and how he got his start in creating his silk-screen art. This began in school in the 1980s, where his entrepreneurial spark led him into starting a ‘zine, making shirts, flyers, and stickers to promote bands, shows, and skateboarding contests. At that time, he wasn’t so much in it for the money as he was for the fun.
It was his desire to fund the building of a skateboard ramp in his backyard that got him into silk-screening and making some cash flow. The ramp was dubbed the SWAMP because it was surrounded by mud for nine months out of the year. But he capitalized on that, creating “SWAMP shirts” to help pay for creating and maintaining his playground.
In 1991, he began taking that skill over to paper with the birth of his signature style serigraphs. Lindsey says, “When I started screen printing flyers, it was for [the band] Jabberjaw in LA and Emos in Texas.” From there his reputation grew, “It kinda blew up in ’94,” Lindsey states, explaining the realization that he had a viable career in this business. He officially launched SWAMP that year, the company that would create over 300 prints to date. Since then he has been commission to create posters for venues across the country and other parts of the world, including clubs in New York, Austin, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Diego, Japan, England, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and beyond.
Lindsey explains his creative process, “There is a closet in my head with endless ideas in it. When I’m asked to do a poster, I just think [about] or listen to the band and open the door. Usually about 10 [ideas] fall out. The one closest to my hands wins.” Although his artwork now includes more original drawing techniques, “I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. So if I’m pressed for time, I’ll shoot a photo or steal an image that catches my eye.”
Through his connection to the music world, he’s able to also connect with the musicians who are promoted through his artistry. But of all of those bands, “Johnny Cash was the coolest. He sat down after the show at Emo’s [in Austin] and signed a bunch of the posters I did with me, Emo, and few others,” Lindsey says. There was also the time he got to hang with Tom Jones, but not all of these rock stars were as friendly. “After doing a Marylin Manson/Clutch show poster in Detroit, I heard I was getting sued. Their management company called me and threatened me. I told them I don’t make much money off [making posters] and wouldn’t give them any money,” explaining that he sent them a dozen poster sets to hopefully cool their sue-crazy jets. This gesture paid off, so to speak, when “they called back about 3 weeks later saying the band loved them and everything was cool.”
Of the pieces currently being shown at Th’Ink Tank, half include limited serigraphs Lindsey has created over the past 10 years, “They have been buried in the rubble of the swamp,” he comments. The remaining half are one of a kind acrylic paintings/screenprints. Although Lindsey has done a number of showings in the past, he has created, ” a bunch for this one. It’s fun to do! Like freestyle screen-printing, you just go at it with no idea what the final piece will look like. Just do it ’till it looks done!”
The serigraph SWAMP business was keeping Lindsey pretty damn busy, but, he couldn’t let go of his skateboarding roots. Lindsey also launched Conspiracy Skateboards with partner Dana Buck, slapping down his style on their signature decks. Conspiracy got its identity from Lindsey’s intrigue with what takes place below the radar. But more than anything, from his frustration with the conspiracy within the “business” of skateboarding, which makes it difficult for a small, underground company to compete with the big guys. “If the kids only knew what was really going on,” states Lindsey, adding, “Plus we’re [originally] from Texas… and Dallas is known for conspiracy with the assassination of JFK.”
So in addition to SWAMP going strong, so is his skateboarding team, “We have about 10 guys on the team now and a growing legion of co-conspirators!”
You can check out many of Lindsey’s pieces on his web site, www.swampco.com, and see them for yourself at the Th’Ink Tank Gallery, located at 1518 Wazee Street (and 15th Street) through July 5th. Prices can fit any budget, from a $20 Steve Caballerro skate print circa 1984 from the Kona Summer Nationals, to a larger original acrylic for a few hundred dollars. And it’s so much cooler than buying yet another Matisse print at Z Gallery for the same price. Not to quote Nike or anything, but be different already.