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Chapter 84: The San Francisco School - Psychedelic Revolution

Table of Contents:


The word “psychedelic” is a combination of the Greek words psyche and delos, and means “mind manifesting” or “soul manifesting.” Contrary to a prevalent myth about the role of mind-altering drugs in creation of this art, most revolutionary artists of this school including Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean, Lee Conklin, Stanley Mouse and others had artistic talent, some formal art training and adhered to strict aesthetic discipline. Almost all the experiments that relied solely on the hallucinating impact of psychedelic drugs ended-up in total failure.

The birth of Visionary Art, and most experiments in sacred form of psychedelic art, have their roots in the native American arts, Jugendstil, and Dada lettering which were influenced by their integration into contemporary festival counterculture and emergence of psychedelic trance music that integrated sacred chanting from various cultures that appeared to correspond to an enigmatic mysticism depicted in the psychedelic posters.

Aldous Huxley's Heaven and Hell relates the psychedelic art to a mystical meaning contained in “the self-luminous objects which we see in the mind’s antipodes”.

For Huxley color is “a kind of touchstone of reality.” The images of the archetypal world which are symbolic are colored, so are the non-symbolic contents of the mind's, which are far more intensely colored than external data. He quotes a number of authors to prove this point.

For example George Russell writes of seeing the world illumined by an "intolerable lustre of light"; of finding himself looking at "landscapes as lovely as a lost Eden"; of beholding a world where the "colors were brighter and purer, and yet made a softer harmony." Again, "the winds were sparkling and diamond clear, and yet full of color as an opal, as they glittered through the valley, and I knew the Golden Age was all about me, and it was we who had been blind to it, but that it had never passed away from the world."

Huxley is struck by the close similarity between induced or spontaneous visionary experience and the heavens and fairylands of folklore and religion. Thus in the Greco-Roman tradition he finds
“the lovely Garden of the Hesperides, the Elysian Plain, and the fair Island of Leuke, to which Achilles was translated. Memnon went to another luminous island, somewhere in the East. Odysseus and Penelope traveled in the opposite direction and enjoyed immortality with Circe in Italy. Still further to the west were the Islands of the Blest, first mentioned by Hesiod and so firmly believed in that, as late as the first century B.C., Sertorius planned to send a squadron from Spain to discover them.

Magically lovely islands reappear in the folklore of the Celts and, at the opposite side of the world, in that of the Japanese. And between Avalon in the extreme West and Horaisan in the Far East, there is the land of Uttarakuru, the Other World of the Hindus. "The land," we read in the Ramayana, "is watered by lakes with golden lotuses. There are rivers by thousands, full of leaves of the color of sapphire and lapis lazuli; and the lakes, resplendent like the morning sun, are adorned by golden beds of red lotus. The country all around is covered by jewels and precious stones, with gay beds of blue lotus, golden-petalled. Instead of sand, pearls, gems and gold form the banks of the rivers, which are overhung with trees of firebright gold. These trees perpetually bear flowers and fruit, give forth a sweet fragrance and abound with birds."
There is no doubt that our aesthetic sensitivities respond, perhaps in a mysterious way, to luminous colors. In fact, the mystical aesthetics and the mode of existence of the psychedelic artwork have an artistic affinity with Ernest Schoen’s depiction of “the unsurpassed noblesse of fireworks” as “the only art that aspires not to duration but only to glow for an instant and fade away.” Fireworks are regarded as a source of joy in our dark universe empty of any meaning. In the words of Theodor Adorno:
Fireworks are apparition kαṫἐξχήν: They appear empirically yet are liberated from the burden of the empirical, which is the obligation of duration: they are a sign from heaven yet artificial, an ominous warning, a script that flashes up, vanishes and indeed cannot be read for its meaning.
(...) Artworks part ways with fallible being not through their higher perfection, but rather through the fact that they, like fireworks, manifest themselves in a radiating fashion as expressive appearance”
In his rendering of the German author Jean Paul’s (1763-1825) metaphor of fireworks for a reflection on art Paul Fleming writes:
The night persists despite the fireworks, after fireworks. Only against a pitch-black background can moments, explosion of joy emerge. Whereas Schiller delineates a form of secular eschatology in which a divided sentimental subject strives to regain –albeit more perfectly – a previous naïve condition through art, and whereas Friedrich Schlegel prescribes an infinite process of becoming so as to achieve a progressive approximation of the absolute, Jean Paul rejects both the historical and reflective models of progress or perfectibility. For Jean Paul the gap between the finite and the infinite, the real and ideal, insuperable. [Art]’s task is neither a return to the Greeks nor reflective self-representation. Rather, the fireworks of art mobilize contrast in order to change one’s relation to the dark – one no longer sees just an overpowering, sublime swathe of emptiness, but the possibilities for spectacular joys. [Art] operates via a contrast in and against the darkness of finitude; it makes the night enjoyable, without ever turning it to day.

The mystic impact of vibrant colours have also been explored by stained glass artists in search of eternal truth. The technique, popularly associated with the arts of the Middle Ages, underwent a spectacular renewal in the context of the Gothic Revival of the 19th century. The Victorians revived what came to be known as the "true mosaic principle" in which lead was used not only for the construction of stained glass windows, but as an aesthetic element in glass design.

In fact, stained glass provides a mystical interpretation for light as the manifestation of the eternal truth. That is why when the Gothic style of architecture started between 1137 and 1144 stained glass was extensively used. The Abbot Suger, who expanded the Abbey Church, St. Denis, just outside Paris over this period proclaimed an explanation very similar to Huxley’s "magically lovely islands". The Abbot said :
“..when - out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God - the loveliness of the many-colored gems...has called me away from eternal cares....then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, as it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world...”

The Marriage at Cana , The Feeding of the Multitude , The Healing of the Blind Man   and The Resurrection, Gerald E. Tooke , The four remarkable rectangular panels of stained glass dated 1965 which are now mounted in the north wall of the new narthex built for St Simon-the-Apostle Anglican Church,  Toronto,   , 

Designed in the Catalan modernista style by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, built between 1905 and 1908 

In an interview about his book, Are You Experienced?: How Psychological Consciousness Transformed Modern Art, The German Times art critic Ken Johnson states:
[I]f the psychedelic revolution had not happened, would art today look different than it does? I was convinced that it would look a lot different. If I was right about that, and if, on the other hand, the influence of psychedelia has been inadequately addressed by academic art historians and critics, as I think has been the case, then the follow-up question becomes: How might the ways we think and talk about art of the past half century differ from the official version?
In his book Johnson claims that in the 1960s some kind of awakening took place in art, and he explains that
There have been three so-called “Great Awakenings” in American history—periods when the populace was gripped by religious fervor, awakened somehow to the Christian God. I think the psychedelic revolution was a similar awakening but not to God. It was more like an awakening to what the first and second century Gnostics thought of as Divine Mind. The new art that came out of the 60s had nothing to do with the progression of styles identified with Modernist art from Manet to Abstract Expressionism. The new frontier for art was and still is, I think, mind and consciousness, which psychedelia has revealed to be far more expansive, complex and variable than was previously ordinarily thought. No longer did it seem that consciousness had to adapt to a fixed state of affairs; mind came to seem the tail that wags the dog of reality.

Little is known about artist Gary Eagle, who designed this poster, but his work was an important part of Seattle’s psychedelic poster scene of the late 1960s.

As these notes have argued in the previous chapters, art in all its manifestations in various forms and styles projects artistic mind's exploration journey into unknowns. Therefore one may suggest that, Johnson's conclusion that “The psychedelic movement helped people move beyond the act of viewing art into a deeper experience of it,” should be slightly modified to read as “The psychedelic movement encouraged people to continue to move beyond the act of viewing art into a deeper experience of it'. In other words the movement reminded people that art is alive and well; and viewers should not let themselves to be misled by the sophistry of the so-called 'art connoisseurs' and their grossly pretentious philosophizing of "end of art. ”

I also agree with Johnson's thoughtful observation that:
The prevailing vocabulary of art criticism, with its emphasis on conceptual and ideological analysis and its broader tendency to think compartmentally, is less well equipped to talk about the resonant ambiguities of metaphor and the psychology of the spiritual in art.
Nevertheless, to sharpen and clarify the message I wonder if we can slightly edit the above statement to read:
The now discredited 20th century's fad of art criticism, with its emphasis on conceptual and ideological analysis and its broader tendency to think compartmentally, was misguided and was not equipped to talk about resonant ambiguities of metaphor and the psychology of the spiritual in art of the modern age of twenty first century and beyond.
The psychedelic posters were of course mass-produced commercial products and as such on May 25, 1968, their death was announced by Rolling Stones' Thomas Albright, who explained:
"their decline is largely explainable in terms of classical economic laws: flooding the market (or how many can you fit on your walls) and bad imitations driving out good originals. The whole thing turned into a tourist fad. And from the start, it was a phenomenon containing massive doses of camp, fresh to begin but staling as quickly as TV's "Batman."
Albright, like many 'Endists', "exaggerated" the news of 1960s poster death, and did not realize that there are and there will be those uniquely talented artists that CAN and Will use the same vehicle, outside the laws of economics, to produce authentic art.

It stands to reason, to believe that, in all its forms, art will never perish. It is the everlasting companion of humanity and it will endure until the last human beings are still alive.

Wes Wilson

Wes Wilson, regarded as the father of the psychedelic poster, was born Robert Wesley Wilson, on July 15, 1937, in Sacramento, California. Wilson was admitted at San Francisco State, majoring philosophy but dropped out in 1963.

In 1965 he self-financed his first protest poster, known as the “Are We Next?” poster depicting a swastika within an American flag motif, objecting to the US conduct of the Vietnam War. In late 1965, Wilson was introduced to the Bay Area art scene in San Francisco. He joined Bob Carr's small basement studio with some modest printing press, creating posters for beat poetry and jazz events. Wilson designed the handbill for the first Trips Festival, marking the appearance of San Francisco's psychedelic culture.

He soon started commission work for Chet Helms, Bill Graham and the Fillmore 'shows at the Open Theater, the Avalon Ballroom and Auditorium. According to him Chet Helms and the Avalon Ballroom often expected him to improvise around a theme given by them, while Bill Graham and the Fillmore offered him complete freedom to design whatever he wanted, and this is why he began to work with them exclusively. In late 1966, Wilson created “The Sound,” his masterpiece poster for the Winterland venue, exhibiting all the features of his unique style with vivid color, decorative fonts and his monumental feminine figure. In 1968, Wilson was rewarded a $5000 award by the National Endowment for the Arts for “his contributions to American Art.” and in 1968 he was invited to exhibit at the Springfield Art Museum.

The Red Hat, September 24, 1966 :: Created for the grand opening of The Red Hat restaurant in Palo Alto, CA

Victor Moscoso

The poster art of Victor Moscoso with its vibrant colours and intricate designs represents the archetypal expression of the psychedelic imagery. Moscoso was born in Spain in 1937, but moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York three years later, where he spent most of his youth and childhood. He went on to study art at Yale under the supervision of Josef Albers, whose color theory later became an important inspiration for him. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was a motivating factor for Moscoso to move on to California and San Fransisco in 1959. But it wasn’t until 1967 with the Summer of Love that Victor Moscoso rose to international fame, with his posters for the Avalon Ballroom (whose concerts featured artists such as Janis Joplin and the Doors). There is an excellent interview with him at The Comics Journal, for those who would like to read more about his fascinating life and refreshing take on art. Victor Moscoso is still active as an artist.

Bonnie MacLean

A native of Philadelphia, , graphic artist Bonnie MacLean was born in Philadel­phia in 1939, she relocated to New York City in 1960 at the age of 21, landing a day job at the prestigious Pratt Institute and attending a figurative drawing class there in the evening. Moving to San Francisco in 1964, she was hired as a secretary at Allis-Chalmers Equipment Manufacturing; where her future spouse Bill, then the company's office manager, who became her boss. This was the same Bill Gra­ham, who became the most famous rock pro­moter in America.

After having a son, David, Bill and Bonnie began promoting local rock concerts. In spite of being a trained artist at Pratt Institute, Bonnie quietly worked behind the scenes collected tickets, passed out handbills, and counted receipts. When Graham parted ways with Wes Wil­son, the artist responsible for creating the Fillmore’s promotional posters, Bon­nie took over the task of producing all of the promotional artwork.

It took a lot of courage to become a recognized artist in the male dom­i­nated world of rock poster art in the 1960s, but Bon­nie MacLean sat behind the easel and graphic art supplies Graham provides at Christmas 1967, and created her masterpieces.

Her early style evolved into vari­a­tions of Medieval Gothic themes, accen­tu­ated with pointed arches and rose win­dows, but it was her faces that cap­tured the most atten­tion – young women with dazed looks, sug­gest­ing the dis­con­nect between tra­di­tional reli­gion and the spir­i­tu­al­ity of the six­ties. In a cre­ative arc span­ning from 1967 to 1969, she pro­duced cus­tomized works fea­tur­ing Native Amer­i­can sub­jects as well as other cul­tur­ally diverse themes. "What’s sig­nif­i­cant," explained MacLean, "is that these posters were cre­ated with an inten­sity that was lived." MacLean’s tenure as a Fill­more artist ended in 1968 as new artists Lee Con­klin and Rick Grif­fin appeared on the rock poster scene. In 1972, MacLean returned to the East Coast and set­tled in Bucks County; she and Gra­ham divorced in 1975

Lee Conklin

Lee Conklin was born July 24th 1941 in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and grew up Monsey, New York. He was the sixth of seven children and graduated from Spring Valley High School in 1959. He did not intend to be an artist, but while studying History and Philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he made cartoons for the college paper called the “Calvin College Chimes”. He met his wife Joy in the college got married and moved to Florida in 1965. He was drafted into the army and served as a cook for a year in Korea. In 1967 he settled in Los Angeles, where he did some pen and ink work and some of it was published by the Los Angeles Free Press. After reading an article in Time about the “Summer of Love” and that San Francisco was becoming the center of the Universe for music and art he and his wife moved there.
”From then on for the next two years, I had a pretty steady gig doing posters for Bill and the Fillmore West (Ed. note – he did over 30 posters in 1968-69). At the same time, the Santana band was playing there pretty frequently and I was well aware of their music, both from performances and their demos, which received extensive airplay on FM radio in San Francisco. One day, Bill asked me to do a poster for a show that Santana was headlining and so, with a little inspiration from a Muse named Mary Jane, I remembered seeing a picture of a lion in a book of animal picture I had and used that image as the basis of my drawing. Even then, I knew that I was making art for future generations and so even though Bill usually liked posters in color, I detailed this one in pen-and-ink. I only made one image, and the next morning he told me that he was going to print is as it was, so he must have been happy with the results.”
Lee Conklin is now known as an artist and graphic designer of psychedelic concert posters which he created for the Filmore in San Francisco 1960’s and 70’s.

Rick Griffin

Richard Alden "Rick" Griffin was born near Palos Verdes on June 18, 1944. While attending Nathaniel Narbonne High School in the Harbor City area of Los Angeles, he produced numerous surfer drawings, which led to his surfing comic strip, "Murphy" for Surfer magazine in 1961. After briefly attendin Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), where he met his future wife, artist Ida Pfefferle, they moved to San Francisco in late 1966. After living in their van for a while, they moved to Elsie Street in the Bernal Heights district and Rick participated in Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. His first art exhibition was for the Jook Savages, celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Psychedelic Shop on Haight Street. Organizers for the Human Be-In saw his work and asked him to design a poster for their January 1967 event. Chet Helms was also impressed by Griffin's work and asked him to design posters for the Family Dog dance concerts at the Avalon Ballroom, which led Griffin to create concert posters for the Charlatans. In 1967, Griffin, Kelley, Mouse, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson teamed as the founders of Berkeley Bonaparte, a company that created and marketed psychedelic posters. Griffin returned to Southern California in 1969, eventually settling in San Clemente. He passed away on August 18, 1991

Rick Griffin’s original hand-made mockup for the cover of the 1985 book “San Francisco Nights: The Psychedelic Music Trip 1964-1969.” At the request of authors Gene Sculatti and Davin Seay, Griffin created this artwork, which is very close to the finished book’s cover. On this mockup, Griffin drew in ink, marker and paint pen on two taped-together pages (working over a copy of an earlier, sketched out version.) In his letter of authenticity, co-author Davin Seay notes having interviewed Griffin prior to the book, and that “Rick was a natural choice to provide the cover art for ‘San Francisco Nights,’ especially given the fact that he had done numerous posters for Charlatans concerts and gene and I wanted the Charlatans on the cover (which they are.) Rick graciously assented…and what you have is the hand done board he submitted to us.

Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley

The creative partnership of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley is one of the most important event in the modern history of poster. They met in San Fransisco and collaborated for over 15 years, creating some of the most remarkable pieces of the 20th century poster art, and two of their most famous images, one featuring ZigZag cigarette rolling papers and another, the Grateful Dead skeleton and roses motif, became iconic symbols of the 60s .

Stanley Mouse (Stanley George Miller) was born in California on October 10, 1940. His father was an animator with Disney Studios who worked on Snow White. Stanley grew up in Detroit, a quiet boy he was always drawing in class, earning his pen name, Mouse in the seventh grade. Stanley became renowned in the the Detroit hot rod culture by detailing extraordinary paint jobs on vehicles, and his T-shirts airbrush designs. After being expelled at tenth grade because of his graffiti on the high school hang out he enrolled in Detroit’s School for the Society of Arts and Crafts which was connected to the Detroit art museum. However he dropped out to move to San Francisco lured by rock posters, social revolution, political passion and musical innovation.  In 1970 Stanley returned to Detroit and was given a one man show at the Detroit Institute of Art. In the late sixties Stanley moved from San Francisco to London to flame Eric Claptons Rolls Royce. From there he did art for Blind Faith and the Beatles and returned to America to work on the signage at Woodstock with Kelley. Kelley and Mouse were working on a Jimi Hendrix cover but Jimi died before it was released. That art morphed into several covers for Journey, including Infinity, Escape and Captured. Stanley produced posters for the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom. His cover art for Steve Millers album Book of Dreams won a Grammy Award in 1977.

Alton Kelley was raised in Connecticut, where his father worked for Chance Vought, building the Corsair—a navy fighter plane. He enrolled at art school of the Philadelphia Museum and College of Art with an interest in industrial design. Then in 1959, after hitchhiking to San Francisco and later to Los Angeles, and Mexico he was admitted at art school at the Art Students League in New York City for a brief time. Kelley ended up this phase of his life working and being laid off as a helicopter and later as a motorcycle shop mechanic.
“I came I worked there and I hated it. And I said. ‘Well, I'm gonna go back to California.’ . . . And that's how I met everybody on Pine Street. Bill Ham was my landlord . . . Mike Ferguson was living there, and Ellen Harmon and Luria Castell . . . And then these folks came down from Virginia City. They got the Charlatans to go up there, so we all went up there and worked on the Red Dog Saloon . . . spent the summer in Virginia City . . . Then, when we came back from Virginia City, we figured, . . . because we knew the bands were all playing together, the Charlatans and the Great Society and the Jefferson Airplane and Warlocks . . . so we figured we'd just start throwing some dances . . .”
Although he had designed the flyers advertising the original Family Dog shows, Kelley lacked drafting ability. When he met Stanley Mouse there was an instant connection. The two formed Mouse Studios and Kelley's drawing skills improved so that he would be working left-handed on one side of the easel with Mouse on the other. “He had the most impeccable taste of anybody I knew,” said Mouse. “He would do the layouts, and I would do the drawing.” They worked together steadily for 15 years and on and off thereafter.

Using Alphonse Mucha's logo for the JOB rolling paper, Mouse and Kelly changed its colors into psychedelic pallet .

Stanley Mouse

Tom Wilkes

Tom Wilkes was born in Long Beach, California on July 30, 1939 and raised in southern California, Wilkes graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1957 despite being sent to the Principal's office on many occasions for drawing in class. He put himself through Long Beach City College, UCLA and the Art Center School in Los Angeles by painting flamboyant motifs and illustrations on his friends' cars. In 1967, he was running his own advertising agency and had already designed album covers for the Rolling Stones – the Flowers compilation with its swirly letters and flower stems topped by individual pictures of the five band members – and The Mamas And The Papas, whose debut If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears featured the four members in a bath tub and a lavatory in the corner – a recurrent Wilkes motif and bugbear of record labels – covered up and then cropped on subsequent versions of the hit album. This brought him into contact with the Mamas' producer Lou Adler and John Phillips of the group, two of the instigators of Monterey Pop, alongside Alan Pariser and the Beatles' press agent Derek Taylor.

 Wilkes was Creative Director, Art Director, Designer, Illustrator, Writer, Photographer and Producer-Director. Wilk has been the art director for the Monterey Pop Festival, A&M Records, ABC Records, The Human Dolphin Foundation and has also served as a partner in Camouflage Productions, Wilkes and Braun and was the President of Tom Wilkes Productions.

Wilkes is responsible for scores of award winning designs including a Grammy for his 1973 "Tommy" album package. The two Beatles compilation albums released in 1973, "The Beatles 1962-1966" and "The Beatles 1967-1970", were designed by Tom Wilkes. His name was shown (only on the US versions of these albums) in the bottom left-hand corner of the paper sleeve (side four) for housing the vinyl record. He passed away on June 28, 2009

Jim Blashfield

Jim Blashfield was born September 4, 1944 in Seattle, Washington. He was active in the late 1960s countercultural music scene and became known for his colorful, psychedelic posters he created for rock shows in the Northwest. He soon began experimenting with filmmaking, making short non-narrative works and music videos. Blashfield developed an instantly-recognizable aesthetic, crafting dreamlike fantasies through his cut-out xerographic animations. Blashfield is the recipient of a Cannes Golden Lion, a Grammy Award, and several MTV Music Award nominations and awards.

John Moehring

John Moehring poster for a 1967 Big Brother and the Holding Company concert at Eagles Auditorium, Seattle

Moehring posters of late 60s in Seattle were heavily influenced by Aubrey Bearsley's work

Bob Masse

Born Robert Joseph Masse on April 5, 1945 in Burnaby, British Columbia.
I was attending Vancouver Art School, and for our last year project, we had to do something that was “practical.” Basically, find a client, get a job, negotiate a price, get paid for it, and print it up. We had all this theory on how to draw pictures. So, now we had to draw a picture, try to paint it, put a frame on it and get it in a gallery. Sort of like a thesis I guess. My best friend was in the same class with me and he had a cousin who was a beatnik. So we’d all hang out at an underground little coffee house near the art school and it was so cool. Just hanging out there basically lead to us producing some free posters for some of the folk acts who performed at this coffee house. We gave them free posters, and we got to hang out for free. Then another place opened in Vancouver, called Inquisition, and it was in a bigger, better location. We ended up doing the same thing: we’d have fun making posters for them and we’d get in for free. We were young, in our 20s, and just loved hanging out watching all the shows. So we did that for a while.

Masse credits his trips to San Francisco during the early days for inspiring him, in particular the work of Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, and, above all, the Art Nouveau style. He argues that psychedelic lettering style has started from the old woodcut designs of the early twentieth century.

The seed of that was from a place called the Red Dog Saloon in Nevada and with a group called The Charlatans (they became Big Brother and the Holding Company, and then Janis Joplin joined them). They had this Mississippi-gambler mock up in the way they dressed. Interestingly enough, at the same time over in England, they were doing the English Edwardian type of lace. It’s kind of funny, because what was turn of the century stuff in America, they did a similar style in England going back in time a bit with the Edwardian dress. But that lettering style, that old lettering was what was used. Then it started to bend and flow a little bit around, rather than keeping it totally straight. So psychedelic posters had lettering that flowed around a bit more. You were breaking a lot of the rules of design that you learnt so well in art school. That was what was so fascinating: you were breaking the rules. Here I am in art school learning everything should be parallel and flushed left; these guys were having the lettering flowing as part of the art. It wasn’t just a photo with lettering, it was all one. The lettering became part of the art itself. Then, as different people came along and added their touch to it, different styles evolved. San Francisco was, of course, the place where psychedelic poster art was really taking off, so I’d go down to there every few months or so to see what the artists were up to. (...)

Another part of psychedelic posters was that it was hard to read the damn things. It was kind of like if you were the in-crowd, you knew how to read these things, you didn’t have to look very closely at them. People would be standing in front of the poster trying to figure out what the heck it was saying. It was great in the days of San Francisco because you’d walk down Haight-Ashbury and there were beautiful posters everywhere. I can remember those days, walking down to see what’s the latest piece up on the street.

Bob Masse , Grateful Dead at Dantes Inferno, 1967

TRIPS Vancouver (Richmond), May 1967,

... Oh we're off to war Because we're not yet dead!
Monty Python's Spamalot

John Van Hamersveld

John Van Hamersveld (b. 1941) has played a key role in poster art of Southern California since the 1960s. Holding influential positions as an art director for Surfer Magazine and Capitol Records, he transcended these roles by designing hundreds of album covers for musicians like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles along with leading the surf culture aesthetic for decades. His iconic image for the movie The Endless Summer in 1964 and his concert poster for Jimi Hendrix at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium in 1968 have become two of the most recognizable and well-known images in their respective genres, securing JVH’s place in design history.
Van Hamersveld's early designs were inspired by surf culture and the professional aesthetic of museums, from the underground psychedelic scene his art developed into to refined posters designed for La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, Wet Magazine and the 1984 Olympics.
In 2005 JVH’s launched his first new poster since 1989 when he was asked to create Cream’s reunion poster. The Cream poster ended up being the cover of the live album and the success led to JVH going on a 2005-2006 tour to visit 17 Tower Record stores, selling posters around the country. “The artist as originator and promoter has become the new model. My work has gone on to murals. I went out the back door from this history into a new medium.”


Dave Hunter

Dave Hunter,an alumnus of the California College of the Arts in Oakland and the Center For Electronic Arts in San Francisco was involved in the Bay Area rock art/music scene for more than two decades. After moving to San Francisco in 1985, he helped to organize and install rock poster shows at the Psychedelic Shop and Artist Rights Today benefits in San Francisco. Dave went on to work as head picture framer for the Bill Graham Archives from 1988 till 1992. From this rock art rich background Hunter began to create rock art for San Francisco Bay Area bands, record labels and venues. He then returned to his roots in printmaking, creating silkscreened posters – some of which are featured in the new Firehouse/Goldenvoice SF poster series.Dave Hunter passed away of brain cancer in May 2017.


Darrin Brenner

The Southern California-based artist Darrin Brenner has been creating art her entire life, exploring a variety of mediums over the years. She is influenced by the rock posters of artists such as Alton Kelly, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin, and Wes Wilson influenced her. Darrin’s most notable clients include Moonalice, Cubensis: The Grateful Dead Music Tribute, Mickey Hart, the Rex Foundation and High Sierra Music Festival, among many others.

Jasmin Meier

Jasmin Meier, Graphic designer and Illustrator from Surry Hills, Sydney Australia is captivated by the weird and wonderful combination of 60's and 70's psychedelic music posters of San Francisco School . She holds a bachelor of Visual Communications majoring in Graphic Design.


A Gallery

An original advertising poster for Pink Floyd´s first concert in Spain on July 20, 1988 at RCD Español´s Estadi di Sarrià in Barcelona. This poster uses strong compositional techniques with the bold, contrasting colours of the flag of Barcelona and a stylized image of the city´s iconic La Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

This psychedelic art nouveau-style poster by Bob Masse is for a 2006 Who concert in Calgary, Alberta, 

Bonnie MacLean 
Bonnie MacLean

Bob Masse

One Republic Poster for Adobe Summit 2017
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