Vin Hoffman

The Psychadelic Experience | April 26, 2009

The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Poster from the San Francisco Bay Area 1965-71

By: Vin Hoffman

The Psychedelic Experience took me back to 60’s where rock-n-roll, drugs, peace, war, and love were the main social theme.  This exhibit featured an extensive collection of posters, handbills, album covers, and comic art as well as some 60’s appropriate music to listen to.

Darrin Alfred led the exhibit with a lecture about the beginnings of the rock poster era and touched on the popular artists and their styles.  There are over 50 different artists but some of the major contributors were: Wes Wilson, Bonnie MacLean, Victor Mosoco, Stanley Mouse,  Rick Griffin, Lee Conklin, Alton Kelley, and David Singer.

All of the images are loaded with color, text and images.  Many of the earlier posters lacked a balance in composition and avoided using black and white.  Much of the text was heavily ornate and distorted in such a way that it was almost unreadable.  The images were usually based on the music they were promoting. Images of women and band members were also used for the San Francisco subculture making statements of the “make love not war” ideal.  Many artists kept the groovy colors, and text but each had their own significant style.

Wes Wilson was one of the first artists to make 60’s rock posters.  He is best known for his “psychedelic” font which looked as though the text was melting or moving away.  Wilson was one of the first to use nude females in his art which was a bold sexual statement of the times.

Bonnie MacLean was the wife of the Fillmore Auditorium promoter Bill Graham.  MacLean was thrown into poster design after Wes Wilson and Bill Graham had a falling out.  Bonnie is best known for her culturally diverse images, the use of faces and their hypnotic expressions.

Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley had created their own business called “The Family Dog” and created posters influenced by the art nouveau movement.  They also continued to make band posters for The Grateful Dead and Journey to name a few.

Victor Moscoso was an illustrator for Zap Comics with a style for the vintage look.  He one of the few artists who was a formally trained.  He used his knowledge of color theory and stylized text warping serifs to create his unique style.

Rick Griffin was particularly interested in the surfing subculture in California.  He started designing posters from his home and soon illustrated album covers and comic strips.  He is noted by his centered image, large top text, old west characters, and drug references.

Lee Conklin’s work was that of a surrealist.  His highly detailed posters followed a tradition of images making up larger images.  Conklin’s art is a darker style of warped images that hard to decipher at first glance.

David Singer had a definite grid system to his posters using collage elements within a border.  Singer steered away from the vibrant colors.  He also was inspired by the art nouveau movement.  Singer designed more posters for the Fillmore than any other artist.

Wes Wilson

Wes Wilson

Bonnie MacLean

Bonnie MacLean

Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin

Victor Moscoso

Victor Moscoso

Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley

Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley

David Singer

David Singer


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