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Jim Pollock Interview

Interview and Photographs by Jason Kaczorowski


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“This site was started for the sole purpose of tracking the values of Jim's art.”
Thomas Davis, Founder of Expressobeans.com


JK: Jim, give us the buzz on what prompted you to create a print for the EB series and whose hive you gathered your inspiration?

JP:The Expressobeans print was a great honor to create. I have been looking forward to doing this project for a long time and I hope to do more images in the future, for your website.

The colors I used are the primaries plus green. The transparent blue lies on darker colors to create a darker tone. The colors got less saturated through the run. The earlier prints have a darker green than the later part of the run. I like both looks.

This is my first four hundred and twenty run. I have been asked many times to do this many and this particular print seemed perfect for that run size.

The central image of the print (two art collectors inspecting art in a gallery) is based on a lithograph by Honore Daumier. He is a nineteenth century lithographer, caricaturist, painter and sculptor from France. Daumier created a lithographic series of art collectors inspecting and admiring the art of his time. The Industrial Age in early nineteenth century Paris attracted more people to cities and created a vibrant middle class. Sales of inexpensive lithographs, a recently developed printmaking method at the time, were brisk in Parisian art galleries. I felt like this image captured what Expressobeans has created. It is a digital art collector market. The wallpaper can be looked at as repeating binary digits or as base-ten digits; it is a pattern of the number ten. This print is the tenth in the EB series and Expressobeans and the internet would be nowhere without a whole lot of binary digits. Also, Beelzebub has again returned!

Insects are again back in this design in the form of industrious bees. I have always been amazed at the ability of the bees to pollinate our plants, build their hives and do all the other things bees do. I think all the stuff we do and all the things other life forms do is organic in nature. I am just trying to make a visual connection as a window to that idea.

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JK: Speaking of insects, many are often drawn to the curious, reoccurring bugs such as dragonflies, beetles and flies that regularly inhabit the world of your posters. Insects are often seen as a nuisance. Would you attribute the “Mexican Wrestler” themed (Las Vegas, Nevada; April 2004) three night run to a social commentary on the negativity you perceived as collectors literally fought for your art at the merchandise tables (Hampton, Virginia; January 2003), prompting management to set up queue lines at future shows containing poster releases?

JP:The insects are just a fascination I’ve had forever. As a kid I was always digging up and looking for insects. I think their bodies are amazing and resemble man-made industrial objects. Also the fact that they are actually the rulers of the earth is cool. They were here long before and will be around long after we’re gone as a species. This is always a humbling thought.

The Mexican wrestler theme was more a commentary on Washington and the use of flesh tones. The neo-con hawks who have created the present situation in Iraq always have reminded me of tough guy posers. They also remind me of some kind of dusty-card-game-royalty. I also wanted to use a flesh tone for Vegas. Both these reasons were factors in the wrestling theme.

I do not like to hear about any unrest as a result of my poster sales. I hope everyone behaves himself when buying my and other artists’ posters.


JK: It’s been over a year since you’ve produced a new, original concert poster. Barring the reunion of Phish or their respective side projects, will we see you create work for another musical act or does your allegiance lie with one band?

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JP:I am not holding out or anything and Phish and their management have always been behind my work wherever it takes me. I have just been doing my own work and have not yet gotten around to getting gig poster gigs. I’m sure I will get back into that. Right now I am doing my own stuff and trying to start some projects with other poster artists. I have heard some great music recently and would love to offer my services, but I have not pursued anything yet.


JK: For a guy who graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree and a 3.8 GPA in Computer Science & Systems Programming, coming off creating work for a band credited with riding a wave of popularity due in large part to a budding internet revolution, you seem often removed from online sites heralding your success. Where other artists have made it a point to seek out questions or concerns in community forums, one must wonder if there’s a caveat for you to keeping up an online presence.

JP:My lack of online presence is my own fault. I get behind in website stuff and internet stuff when I design, carve, print and distribute my prints.

I would love to do some online question and answer thing. Please email me. I don’t have a lot to say about my work, but I would love a chance to offer up anything of interest.


JK: Obvious historical influences come to mind when viewing your work including the 19th and 20th Century Art Nouveau approach of Alphonse Mucha and Aubrey Beardsley. Can you give examples of contemporary poster artists pushing the envelope in today’s industry who have inspired you to new levels?

JP: I was honored to be a part of “The Art of Modern Rock” book. That book is filled with people whose work I have admired greatly over the years. Kozik, The Ames Brothers, EMEK and others are just the beginning of what has become a poster legacy in the United States. The Rock Poster is a terrific venue for artists. Many designers are encouraged to push the envelope of taste and taboo. This makes the rock poster forum very exciting since less censorship occurs between artist and viewer. Jennifer Anzalone, Ryan Kerrigan, Aaron Masthay and Jamie Huntsman are all artists I’ve met through you, Jason, and the poster community. Each has their own individual style and they are gaining more recognition with their new work. I’m glad Expressobeans can serve as a place where artists can get more recognition. My influences do not seem to have any particular historic time reference, but there has been a lot of exciting work in graphic design in the past one hundred and fifty years. I cite both fine and graphic art as influential. Chris Ware is also an amazing artist who is very inspiring. His graphic novels are masterpieces of the genre.


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JK: Much of your work, independent from the music industry, explores rooted social and environmental issues not confronted by today’s mainstream media. Though much of this catalog is earmarked for a liberal audience, do you expect to free minds of the ignorance that you stand on your soapbox denouncing and, in conjunction, do you feel your work is the microphone or is it the work hanging on the dorm room wall that sparks a political conversation which stirs the upheaval?

JP: I feel my work is misunderstood as political. Using less oil is not [a] political issue. “I Want More” is a three-color linoleum print of a not-so-svelte Uncle Sam guzzling a barrel of oil. I released this piece a few days before The World Trade Center was destroyed. This piece seems to be recognized as a very political piece, but I fail to see this. I am merely stating the obvious; that we’re running out of oil. I will say it again. WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF OIL!! This is not a political statement. It is fact. There was once a time when thinking that the earth was not the center of the universe was a political statement. Before Columbus sailed on his famous voyage, thinking that the earth was round was a political statement. We are running out of oil and people refuse to accept it. The question is not where I stand politically; the question is how do we stop the rest of the world from perceiving the United States like the gas-guzzling Uncle Sam. The answer will have to come from people of all political persuasions. The work does bring up political discussions, but the subject matter is not political.

The industrial hemp issue is another non-political issue which has been made political. Legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp for use in industrial production would help our agricultural sector, create new industry and could help solve some sustainable resource problems. In some states like South Dakota, Washington D.C. is the only thing standing between farmers making profits from hemp. It seems odd for our Federal Government to stand in the way of agricultural, industrial and environmental progress. They too would stand to gain from the benefits of this farm product. Instead, the DEA continues to fight for its inclusion as a controlled substance. My only conclusion is that industrial hemp would compete with the oil, timber and cotton markets. Oil, timber and cotton are three very powerful lobbies in Washington. These lobbies help fund Federal elections and politicians repay them by keeping a competing product off the market. The question is not “if” we should legalize industrial hemp; the question is “when” will it be legal and how many ways can it help us.

I do have political views, but have not yet crossed into that territory yet. I have been encouraged to do caricatures of Bush administration figures. As enticing as this may be, I cannot give any more time or wall space to these people who have been afforded too much power as it is. With Washington, even bad press is press. Until we reduce their power, using them as subject matter just furthers the myth of their power.


JK:Your wife is an award-winning, famed children’s book author whose efforts in encouraging children to love reading has spawned a non-circulating library and literary salon geared toward parents and elementary school teachers promoting read aloud workshops and literature-based education. Crack the book on its future and your intellectual family for us.

JP: My wife, my son and I opened a “reading room” in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. My wife, Esme Raji Codell, has accumulated a lot of children’s books over the years as a writer, teacher, bookseller and book reviewer. We thought it would be helpful to share the books with the public and to create a space for parents, teachers and anyone else interested in children’s books. It is a non-lending resource in which we host great children’s book authors and illustrators to share their work and meet their public. My wife’s website is Planetesme.com and you can find reviews of children’s books and other children’s literature information for, as well as a schedule of, upcoming events at the reading room. We are in the second year at the reading room and response from visitors, authors and publishers has been very positive. It is an ever-evolving institution, which we hope to continue.


JK:Rohner Letterpress has been your adoptive studio away from home since your Food Not Bombs release, September 6th, 2002. For an artist who seems bent on his ability to directly hone his technique, how does working with a Heidleberg press limit your creative control?

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JP:I met Bruno Rohner doing a project for a local design firm. He owns Rohner Letterpress. He showed me how he could print from my original linoleum blocks up to 18”x24” in size and be able to register the plates very accurately. We have done a number of projects together with his great staff and I have learned a lot more about the printmaking process. The Heidleberg press is what we have printed my projects on and it is a machine phenomenal engineering. It gives me more choices for my printmaking and it has a much different look than the loosely registered handprints. It can also do in an afternoon, what it took me weeks to do. I am concentrating on handprints right now, but I have some upcoming projects planned for Bruno’s shop.


JK: Your success has been attributed to being in the right place at the right time having attended Goddard College and becoming roommates with Phish keyboardist, Page McConnell. It wasn’t until 1985 when McConnell persuaded guitarist Trey Anastasio and drummer Jon Fishman to join him that the band started taking shape. Take us back to school for a day in the life of aspiring artist, Jim Pollock, circa the mid-to-late 1980’s.

JP:Those were carefree times. I was doing a lot of political cartoons of Reagan Administration situations. I was reading many newspapers and studying about the media. Page was always diligently playing the piano and I was very happy for him when he found a great combo to play with. I got to listen to them find their sound. It was great to hear this band who was interested in creating a new rock sound and succeeding. I moved on to Chicago and would see them when they played here. It was not until they played the Aragon ballroom that I knew something different was happening to this band that does not happen to all bands.


JK:The very last poster you created for Phish’s final concert of their career contained the homage “Thank You” emblazoned across the paper in an enormous edition of over ten-thousand, seemingly so every fan who wanted one would be able to commemorate the memorable occasion. Who were you thanking the most in that print: The band that gave you a start as an artist, the fans who bought the prints or the universe for providing the opportunity for it all to come together?

JP: There was no way we could have not put a big “thank you” on the last Phish poster. When I was presenting sketches to Phish management, we were all in agreement about these words. I have always been very grateful for the good fortune of having a supportive audience for my work. Phish and their management have always been encouraging in all my artistic endeavors. There are really not enough thanks to go around. I have been blessed to be able to do what I have been doing. I wish to thank all those who have supported my work.


Learn more about Jim Pollock

Works of Jim Pollock

More on Jason Kaczorowski

Works of Jason Kaczorowski


Written October-November, 2005

EB-10 Production Photographs

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