The Art of Poster Art

Much of what became known as the 60’s Revolution took place—or began—in San Francisco.  The same was true for the new Poster Art, an art form developed for the posters that advertised the concerts prevalent in that day.

Bright colors, neon’s and fluorescence were used in the creation of Poster Art.  Evocative dream-like images were dominant and the prevalent form of lettering was done by hand in rounded shapes that fit together like a puzzle.

Moving away from traditional art forms, artists used the music and mood of the 60’s for inspiration to popularize the new Poster Art.  The era brought about the term “psychedelic”—coined from the visions that accompanied experimental mind-altering substances. Wild images and electric colors found in both fashion and art fit the term, and the time.

Psychedelic Poster Art was combined with a new style of lighting used at concerts where a kaleidoscope of colors pulsated to the beat of the music.  Elements of the poster designs came to life only when viewed under black light, part of the unique lighting.

Posters and rock concerts went hand in hand.  The epicenter of Poster Art was formed around a stable of artists at Chet Helms Family Dog.  Family Dog and Bill Graham were the front-runners of this new style of musical event, promoting concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore West in San Francisco.  Each concert was commemorated by a new poster.

Over the years these posters grew in value and today are considered prized collectibles.  Besides being good advertising the posters designed in the new style was great art and captured attention.

Victor Moscoso, Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelly, and the late Rick Griffin, the big 5, were among the artists that pioneered Poster Art along with John Thompson and Pat Ryan.  Victor once said, “I had to unlearn everything I had learned in art school.”  These artists continue to use this style in their work today.

With the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love is not over yet.  The peace, love and nonviolent communication are meant to go on year round and worldwide.  You can find some of this artwork at San Francisco’s Modern Art Museum, where they have a permanent collection, San Francisco Library, and the California Historical Society.



C 2017