In the late sixties something occurred to an american generation that would mark them forever. It is a story of war, the struggle for racial equality and the explosion of counter culture, it was a time when a generation rebelled, and lost its innocence in the battle against injustice. Vietnam was the first ever televised war, and the images were inescapable.
A decade which ended with disillusionment and rage began on a moral high note.
There is so much to write about in this era, it is extremely difficult to select just 1 thing to concentrate on. Even though there is an absurd amount of design and art that stems from this time period. When we talk about the”sixties” all we seem to recognise is the music, psychedelic rock and artists such as Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix in particular.
Album art and festival posters however is a fantastic place to start. As music was a force to be reckoned with, so came the album art work and poster designs, hand in hand. 1 thing which appears to be re-occurring with most of the visual artists at the time is compared with”Underground Comix”. These depicted content deemed unfit and forbidden to the stricter mainstream media.
When we look up band posters it’s not easy to avoid locating a Grateful Dead poster somewhere, anywhere. He was an American artist and one of the major designers of psychedelic posters in the 1960s. His work within the surfing subculture included both movie posters and his comic strip, Murphy.
After studying art at the Cooper Union in New York and attending Yale University, he moved to San Francisco in 1959 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Here he later became an instructor. He was one of the first of the rock poster artists to use photographic collages in his art work.His artwork and poster work has continued up to the present and he’s a major inspiration to rock poster and record illustrators to this day.
Another American artist making a name for her self at the time was Bonnie MacLean. She was born in Philadelphia and graduated from the Penn State University in 1960. She then moved to New York where she worked at the Pratt Institute while attending drawing classes in the evenings. She later moved to San Francisco where she met and worked with a guy named Bill Graham, who became famous as the promoter of rock concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. There she worked along with another artist by the name of Wes Wilson.
The aforementioned artist Wes Wilson was also one of the top illustrators of psychedelic posters in the 1960’s. Working with Bill Graham and Bonnie MacLean, he was a large part of promoting venues at the time together with posters and descriptive work for musicians and bands. The font and lettering of the posters from this era were created by him. He popularised this”psychedelic” font around 1966 that made the letters look like they were moving or melting. This lettering is still used on newer books and art works for artists such as Foo Fighters, Kyuss Lives and The Queens of the Stone Age. This then proves the psychedelic movement is still influencing artists, especially in the area of metal, desert rock and stoner rock. The style is very much still alive because its own staple.
Modern poster styles:
Posters still influenced by the styles of art work can be tracked through homages and inspirations in rock and metal posters in the current all the way back to this era. Several modern posters can be seen on the web pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you should be interested. Personally, I find a whole lot of inspiration through their vision.