In the late sixties something happened to an american generation that would mark them forever. It’s a story of war, the battle 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 pictures were inevitable.
A decade that ended with disillusionment and rage began on a moral high note.
There is so much to write about in this age, that it is extremely difficult to select just one thing to focus on. Even though there’s an absurd amount of design and art that stems from this period of time. 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 good 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 were small press or self published comic books, usually socially relevant and satirical in their nature. These depicted articles deemed unfit and prohibited to the stricter mainstream media.
When we look up band posters it is hard to avoid locating a Grateful Dead poster somewhere, anywhere. The artist behind these were Rick Griffin. He was an American artist and one of the leading 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 among the first of the rock poster artists to utilize photographic collages in his art work.His artwork and poster work has continued up to the present and he is a big inspiration to rock poster and album illustrators for 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 subsequently 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 leading illustrators of psychedelic posters in the 1960’s. Working with Bill Graham and Bonnie MacLean, he had been a big part of promoting venues in the time together with posters and descriptive work for bands and musicians. The font and lettering of the posters from this era were made 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 like Foo Fighters, Kyuss Lives and The Queens of the Stone Age. This then proves that the psychedelic movement is still affecting artists, especially in the world of metal, desert rock and stoner rock. The design is very much still alive because its staple.
Posters still influenced by the styles of art work could be traced through homages and inspirations in stone and metal posters from the current all the way back to this era. A number of modern posters can be viewed on the internet pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you ought to be interested. I personally find a whole lot of inspiration through their vision.