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Motown art is groovy

Throughout Chicago, at bus top kiosks, on the sides of buses and commuter trains and at commuter, rail stations, are posters advertising Motown—The Musical.” This musical, which is currently playing at The Oriental Theater, is performing arts, but the posters and billboards are art exhibits. (The Oriental Theater is at Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 24 W. Randolph Street in Chicago, Ill.)

Repetition, high contrast and circular forms are part of this billboard's graphic design.
© 2014 Vernon Brookins

Posters and billboards that advertise performing arts events have Commercialism Style art. Using unique designs and recognizable forms, this art expects to draw Chicagoans’ interest. (Visitors to Chicago may also be attracted to these displays.)

These billboards/posters consist of black borders with two, gradient, gold and white color slogans at the top. On the left side are two photos, which appear to be Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell. In the middle, just below the slogans, there is a group of five—The Temptations. On the right is a singer with a conservative haircut, too conservative to be James Brown, and definitely not Smokey Robinson. (Maybe some of you readers know who it is.)

A vinyl, gold records’, groovy contours draw attention to the singers on the right and left. (It looks like the two pairs of pants and the single dress/skirt are gold and curved (convex). These same contours are the background for The Temptations. (The Temptations are doing one of their famous, dance poses.)

Behind the artists on the left and right is repetitive, MOTOWN text. The text is white on gold. The layout is horizontal.

Recognizable to many, Motown fans is the colorful, Motown, record label. The Motown text has gradient colors of red, yellow and green, which is set against a background that is a crude map of Detroit and its nearby highways. “More Than A Broadway Show. A celebration of music that transformed America!” (from CBS Sunday Morning) is white text on a medium blue background. This text and background makes up the circular label’s, bottom part (not quite half). This label is in these posters’ centers, just as it was in the center of millions of Motown, vinyl records.

Many Motown artists received gold record awards. These posters may someday become collector’s items worth some gold. However, now they represent the performing arts with art exhibit qualities, and bring back memories of an era before eight-track tapes, cassette tapes, compact disks and You Tube.

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