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 which ended with disillusionment and anger started on a moral high note. Thanks to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King jr, it seemed the time for racial equality in the US had finally arrived.
There’s so much to write about in this era, that it is extremely difficult to select just 1 thing to focus on. Even though there is an absurd quantity of artwork and design that stems from this time period. When we discuss 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. One thing that seems to be re-occurring with most of the visual artists at the time is compared with”Underground Comix”. These depicted content deemed unfit and prohibited to the more strict mainstream media.
When we look up band posters it’s not easy to avoid finding a Grateful Dead poster somewhere, anywhere. He was an American performer and one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters in the 1960s. His work within the surfing subculture included both film posters and his comic strip, Murphy.
A Spanish-American artist, Moscoso was the first of the rock poster artists of the 1960s era with formal academic training and experience. Here he later became an instructor. He was among the first of the rock poster artists to use photographic collages in his artwork work.His artwork and poster work has continued up to the present and he is a big inspiration to rock poster and album illustrators to this day.
Another American artist making a name for her self at the time was Bonnie MacLean. 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 alongside 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 large part of promoting venues at 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 going or melting. This decoration is still used on newer records and art works for artists such as Foo Fighters, Kyuss Lives and The Queens of the Stone Age. This then proves that the psychedelic movement remains affecting artists, especially in the area 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 can be traced through homages and inspirations in stone and metal posters in the present all the way back to this age. Several modern posters can be viewed on the internet pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you should be interested. I personally find a whole lot of inspiration through their imagery.