Though not considered ‘high art’, many poster artists have made significant historical impact capturing life of the times. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Muncha created groundbreaking designs and provided much inspiration for designers over half a century later. But how many poster designers from the late 1960s can we utter by name?
One of my favorite types of posters ever is rock posters from this time. They made an enormous impression on me. I still carry the same feelings I had when I was first exposed to them in diapers. Then as a child, I used to sit on the floor and gaze at the covers of my father's albums. He would pull a few carefully rolled up posters out that he had tucked away in his closet. I was absolutely memorized. He played the music these posters advertised and tried to explain to me the meaning behind the words. By the time I was eight, I was riding my bike with the pink daisy banana seat and singing along to Cream's Strange Brew up and down the sidewalk of my street. This was the time when the Bee Gees were all that. I didn't care for their girlie voices. Or their clothing. In high school, I would decorate my denim notebook accompanied by a big metal clip with my own psychedelic lettering in black and red marker. I didn’t fully understand what the whole psychedelic experience was all about. But I would save my allowance and go to the local record store to buy records. I wasn't buying Duran Duran albums like all my other friends; I was still stuck in the era in which I was born and saving my quarters for albums by bands like Buffalo Springfield, Hot Tuna and Canned Heat.
A decade later, I was still memorized. In Interior Architecture school, I would experiment with my own lettering in drafting classes. Many times my lettering melded into my floor plans or elevations. None of my teachers like it. I had to go home and redo my lettering the proper way for the next class.
When I found out I had the opportunity to check out the latest exhibition at the Denver Art Museum (that's where the DAM part comes in...) on Rock Posters from 1965-1971, I was pretty freakin’ excited. Though my music tastes have changed, I will never pass up listening to a song from this era. Singing along to the radio, loudly in my car with the windows down, I haven’t forgotten one word of a song. And the posters still affect me. Thing is, these posters inspire something different than other contemporary art. They stir something in many of us. They show us a secret language, an instinct and a willingness to let go. Something many of us understands though certain experiences. I don’t think it matters what age or era.
I'd like to think.
Top: Rick Griffin, 1968; Second: Among the best-known San Francisco poster designers was Wes Wilson, "Moby Grape, Chambers Brothers, Winterland/Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco," 1967; Third: Bonnie MacLean designs were highly inspired by Wes Wilson. She was the wife of Bill Graham, a music promoter who arranged for bands to play at the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Wes Wilson bailed when he realized he was getting a fraction of what Bill Graham was making from his poster designs; Fourth: Poster by the incredibly freaky creative Lee Conklin for the August-September 1968 shows at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Lastly: Alton Kelley in collaboration with Stanley Mouse were inspired by a nineteenth century engraving and created this well-known Grateful Dead poster, 1966.