Colin McFrangos “hated every minute” of an advanced drawing class he took a year ago at the School of the Art Institute. He says he’d been making “pretty hermetic” prints, “spilling my guts out in such a coded way that no one would ever care about the work.” The drawing instructor, whose own art he actually liked, was interested in discussion, analysis, and relations between abstract shapes that, McFrangos says, “play with the figure-ground idea”–connecting objects with their surroundings–“a very specific framework that I was interested in breaking with.”

After a month of class, he recalls, “I already knew exactly what she wanted, so one night I generated a very formal, fairly abstract drawing because I knew I could play that game. I showed it to her and she put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Colin, do you know what a seminal drawing is? Well, I think this might just be it.”‘

A week after his instructor’s comments, McFrangos started drawing music posters, impressed by the fliers he’d seen at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. “I was designing one of my first posters in her class, and she didn’t talk to me for the rest of the semester.” On seeing his brightly colored, almost cartoonlike posters for local clubs in the final critique, a fellow student asked him, “Do you not like art, or what?”

McFrangos, who has also studied at Bard College and San Francisco’s Academy of Arts College, says the School of the Art Institute was “the first place I’ve been where people can actually say, “This is art.’ I’m happy that I don’t know what art is.”

McFrangos finds inspiration in the local music scene. His art tastes range from Goya to Schwitters to the underground “comix” of R. Crumb, but the differences so important to critics and academics matter less to him. “I don’t care if it’s a scrawl in a back alley if it engages me in some way. I was walking home one day and found on Division Street these two ratty socks, and just being me I picked them up and glued eyes on them.” This sock puppet now emits a weird green glow in a silk-screen poster for the band Come.

So far McFrangos has made posters for such clubs as Empty Bottle, Lounge Ax, and the Lunar Cabaret and for bands like the Monomen, Babes in Toyland, and the Vandermark Quartet. “Part of what really appeals to me about posters is that people see them in a nonart environment,” he says. “I don’t want things treated reverently. I want things that jump out at you.”

Posters and prints by Colin McFrangos are on view through May 6 at Anchor Graphics, 935 N. Damen. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 PM, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings 7 to 10 PM; call 252-4669 for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Nathan Mandell.