3 Union Shop – The Colby Poster Printing Company – MOCA U – MOCAtv

Until its doors closed on December 31, 2012, the family-run Colby Poster Printing Company made the letter-pressed signs, posters, billboards and showcards that were a ubiquitous feature of the visual landscape of Los Angeles.

For three generations, promoters of boxing bouts, rodeos, reggae concerts and literary-minded visual artists were drawn to the swift graphic science of the dayglo poster. Its essential purpose was to quickly and efficiently convey information to viewers zooming along the autoscape. The durability was a byproduct: posters still hang on telephone poles and chainlink fences from Venice to Las Vegas, months and years after their commissions.

In this short documentary, C.R. Stecyk III visits the company to make one last print, and to expound on its enduring appeal to anyone who ever wanted to leave a mark of their own in the city of signs.

Narrated by C.R. Stecyk III.
Directed by Felipe Lima & C.R. Stecyk III.

MOCAtv Executive Producers Emma Reeves & John Toba.
Ways & Means Producers Lana Kim & Jett Steiger.

Second Unit Director: Susanne Melanie Berry.
Photography & Cinematography: Susanne Melanie Berry, Felipe Lima, C.R. Stecyk III.

Music: UUV.
Sound: Owen Granich-Young.
Additional sound recording: Andrew Ben Miller.

Voice-over editing: Ed Yonaitis.

Color by MPC LA. Executive Producer: Ed Koenig. Producer: Ted Ilsley. Colorist: Derek Hansen.

Special thanks to Glenn Hinman & The Hinman Family for their support.

Special thanks also to Christopher Michlig, Brian Roettinger, Jan Tumlir for their support in conjunction with the exhibition and book In the Good Name of The Company.

Featured artists (in order of appearance):

Ed Ruscha, Miracle (Poster), 1975
Allen Ruppersberg, The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg, 2003
Peter Coffin, Untitled (Designs for Colby Poster Co.), 2008
Alexis Smith, Mine Was the Better Punch, But it Didn’t Win the Wrist Watch, 1983
Thom Andersen, Get Out of The Car, 2010
Eve Fowler, The Difference is Spreading, 2010, A Spectacle and Nothing Strange, 2010, Gertrude Stein, 2010
Cali Thornhill Dewitt, Modern American Opinion, 2010-2012
Kathryn Andrews, 2009, 2013
Andy Beach, Too Blessed 2 Be Stressed, 2010
Scott Benzel, Black Suns/Black Holes From Inner Experience by George Bataille, 1988, 2010
Anthony Burrill, Ask More Questions, 2012
Sam Durant, Untitled, 2000-2004
Eric Junker, Free Your Monkey, 1997
Daniel Joseph Martinez, Avant-Garde Mixed With Blood, 2004
Euan Macdonald, Untitled, (From the Mental Traveller by William Blake), 2013
Jacob Kassay, Dub Music, 2012
Christopher Michlig, Free Free 2011,
Brian Roettinger, Printed at Colby, 12.07.12, 2012
C.R. Stecyk III, Belted, 2010
C.R. Stecyk III, ADIOS, 2012

Suggested reading - Digital Printing, Large Printing Companies

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  1. Beautiful film – but leaves the question – why did it close?
    Economic reasons- no clients etc?
    Change in public tastes?
    Family wanted to diversify?

    Similar to the work of Hatch Show prints in nashville and just as beautiful…

  2. Grew up down the street from Colby in Pico Union. I grew up (27 years) with their style of posters as part of my visual vernacular. Catholic school fiesta posters to 80s freestyle concert events. That being said, I never ever knew what they did in that building until I produced a concert in 2011, and we wanted that old school street poster look for the promotions. I had the pleasure of having a poster printed at Colby and working with the grand kids. Our poster was day-glo orange, yellow and green. Maximum brightness right? Our event took place on October, 28th, 2011. Until this very moment that I saw this on KCET, I was not aware that Colby had closed. A sad moment for me, realizing that yet another beloved member of this cities extended family has faded off into the history books. 

  3. This is the Colby Poster doc I was talking about +Anthony Peters. Produced by the lovely +Lana Kim.

  4. I was a client of Colby Printing. They printed 75 posters of mine "Your Favorite Yiddish Author Here" as meticulously and lovingly as I could have ever hoped. I proudly asked them to put the union "bug" on the bottom, usually omitted in art pieces, and hoped to order another run one day. I'm so sad that this Los Angeles institution has vanished in a cloud of inkjet. While my poster was being printed my house was burglerized, and the computer I created the artwork on stolen. But Colby had the little thumb drive, safe and sound, and because of that my poster lives on. Maybe that's another reason I loved them.

  5. Sweet story, well done. A tribute to craft. But, as with much "art," the politics gets ignored. Three unions – boasted by the title, but never explained. My guess is LPIU, GAIU, then GCIU. And no printing for causes? Certainly there must have been – farmworker support, demos, strikes, pickets. Occupy the commons is an important struggle, and print rules. Long live Colby Press and the like.

  6. Amazing short. I can't go anywhere around So. Cal without seeing these. Definitely sad seeing the truck pull away with the press.

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