Design & Art History – The Psychedelic Movement (CA 1960 – 1970)

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In the late sixties something happened 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 that ended with disillusionment and anger started on a moral high note.

There is so much to write about in this era, it is very difficult to select only 1 thing to concentrate on. Despite the fact that there is an absurd quantity of art and design 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 particularly.

Album art and festival posters however is a fantastic place to start. 1 thing which appears to be re-occurring with most of the visual artists at the time is a relation with”Underground Comix”. These depicted articles deemed unfit and forbidden to the stricter mainstream media.

Rick Griffin:
When we look up band posters it’s not easy to avoid locating a Grateful Dead poster somewhere, anywhere. He was an American performer 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.

Victor Moscoso:
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 a teacher. 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 big inspiration to rock poster and album illustrators to this day.

Bonnie MacLean:
Another American artist creating 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 in the Pratt Institute while attending drawing classes in the evenings. She later moved to San Francisco where she met and worked with a man 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.

Wes Wilson:
The aforementioned artist Wes Wilson was also one of the leading illustrators of psychedelic posters from the 1960’s. Working with Bill Graham and Bonnie MacLean, he had been a big part of promoting venues at the time with posters and descriptive work for bands and musicians. 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 going or melting. This decoration is still used on newer albums and art works for artists like Foo Fighters, Kyuss Lives and The Queens of the Stone Age. This in turn proves the psychedelic movement is still affecting artists, especially in the area of metal, desert rock and stoner rock. The design is very much still alive as its 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 age. A number of modern posters can be seen on the web pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you should be interested. I personally find a whole lot of inspiration through their vision.

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