Design & Art History – The Psychedelic Movement

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 inescapable.

A decade which ended with disillusionment and anger started on a moral high note. Because of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King jr, it seemed the time for racial equality in the US had finally arrived.

There is so much to write about in this era, that it is extremely difficult to select just 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 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 nevertheless is a fantastic 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 the majority of the visual artists at the time is compared with”Underground Comix”. These depicted content deemed unfit and forbidden to the stricter mainstream media.

Rick Griffin:
When we look up group 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 contained both movie posters and his comic strip, Murphy.

Victor Moscoso:
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 a teacher. He was among 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 record illustrators for 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 alongside another artist by the name of Wes Wilson.

Wes Wilson:
The aforementioned artist Wes Wilson was also one of the top illustrators of psychedelic posters from 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 illustrative work for musicians and bands. 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 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 influencing artists, especially in the area of metal, desert rock and stoner rock. The style is very much still alive because its staple.

Modern poster styles:
Posters still influenced by the styles of art work can be traced through homages and inspirations in stone and metal posters in the current all the way back to this era. Several modern posters can be viewed on the web pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you ought to be interested. I personally find a whole lot of inspiration through their vision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *