In the late 1960s, something happened to an American generation that would mark them forever. It is a story of war, the fight for racial equality and the explosion of the counterculture, it was a time when a generation rebelled and lost their innocence in the fight against injustice. Vietnam was the first televised war and the images were inescapable.
A decade that ended in disappointment and anger began on a high moral note. Thanks to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King jr, it seemed that the time for racial equality in America had finally come.
There is so much to write about in this age that it is very difficult to select just one thing to focus on. Although there is an absurd amount of art and design that stems from this time period. When we talk about the “sixties,” all we seem to recognize is music, psychedelic rock, and artists like Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix in particular.
However, album art and festival posters is a good place to start. Just as music was a force to be reckoned with, so did the album artwork and poster designs come hand in hand. One thing that seems to be happening again with most visual artists at the time is a relationship with “Underground Comix.” These were small-press or self-published comic books, generally socially relevant and satirical in nature. These featured content that was deemed inappropriate and prohibited by the strictest media.
When looking for band posters, it’s hard to avoid finding a Grateful Dead poster somewhere, anywhere. The artist behind these was Rick Griffin. He was an American artist and one of the leading psychedelic poster designers in the 1960s. His work within the surfing subculture included both movie posters and his comic strip, Murphy.
A Hispanic American artist, Moscoso was the first of the 1960s era rock poster artists with formal academic training and experience. After studying art at Cooper Union in New York and after 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 rock poster artists to use photo collages in his artwork.
Another American artist who made a name for herself at the time was Bonnie MacLean. He was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn State University in 1960. He then moved to New York where he worked at the Pratt Institute while attending drawing classes in the afternoons. He later moved to San Francisco, where he met and worked with a man named Bill Graham, who became famous as a promoter of rock concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. There he worked alongside another artist named Wes Wilson.
The aforementioned artist Wes Wilson was also one of the leading psychedelic poster illustrators in the 1960s. Working with Bill Graham and Bonnie MacLean, he was a big part of promoting venues at the time with posters and illustrative works for musicians and bands. The font and letters on the posters from this era were created by him. He popularized this “psychedelic” font around 1966 which made the letters appear to move or melt. These lyrics are still used in more recent albums and artwork for artists such as Foo Fighters, Kyuss Lives, and The Queens of the Stone Age. This in turn shows that the psychedelic movement continues to influence artists, especially in the world of metal, desert rock, and stoner rock. The style lives on as a staple.
Modern poster styles:
The posters still influenced by the styles of the artwork can be traced through tributes and inspirations on rock and metal posters from the present to this time. Various modern posters can be seen on the Malleus Rock Art Lab web pages if interested. I personally find a lot of inspiration through his images.
Thank you for reading.