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The revolution of the rock poster as an art form began in San Francisco in the mid sixties, as artists commissioned to create affordable advertising for concert events broke free from the confines of commercial poster design. The large body of original artwork includes paintings, sketches, preparatory work and printing plates from the key protagonists of this artform including Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, Gary Grimshaw, Michael English, Alton Kelly, David Singer, Pietro Psaier, Hapshash and Jamie Reid amongst many others..

An International Exhibition of Street Design from Beat to Punk via Psychedelia

Inspirational Times traces the evolution of the rock poster as an artform both by examining the art itself, the artists and the backcloth against which such incredible graphics was created. It has been curated from the Peter Golding Collection, one of the largest archives from this era and a result of 35 years of research into the original artwork from this period.

By the late 50s the old times were slipping away. Influences such as comics, hot rods and rhythm'n'blues were protruding into the cultural environment. In the US the art and lifestyle of the Beat Generation and the films 'The Wild One' and 'Rebel Without a Cause' among others expressed the sensibility of the outsider. Whether it was real or a romantic fantasy, it had the effect of attracting a significant proportion of the youthful audience who identified with this new independence and sexual freedom.

The first section Times they are a'changin explores the way this transcribed into artwork, fashion and literature including rare handbills from the San Francisco Diggers, rare Colin Duffield British early 60s concert posters, Harold Chapman photographs of London and the Paris Beat Hotel and store posters such as The Different Drummer (Peter Max, NY) and Granny Takes a Trip (Hapshash, UK). Folk music and the electric guitar added to the scene and the concert circuit crystallised both in the cities and colleges with promoters Bill Graham and Family Dog setting up venues on the West Coast of America with new venues and psychedelic clubs opening up such as UFO, The Roundhouse, Saville Theatre and Middle Earth in London. Free-thinking promoters commissioned artists to design posters which were locally distributed on a short-run basis allowing them freedom to experiment unlike more commercial advertising work.

The San Francisco rock poster in particular derived from a new Bohemian strain that developed into an artistically self-sustaining subculture. The proliferation of icons used such as the native Indian indicated their aesthetic, ironic and irreverent sensibility that developed very differently from that of the mainstream art world. The images used were often unrelated to the music they were promoting, often borrowed from the past reflecting the mood of the time where the message and shock value was tantamount.

Original sketches and preparatory work by Mouse & Kelley, David Singer will illustrate this section along with a look at the Underground press and their artwork including Oz and the International Times. How did they think up such designs? Who were their favourite artists and what were they inspired by and why? Whilst celebrating the graphic achievements of the artists in question, another section, Art for Arts' Sake, delves into the common and not so common artistic influences prevalent at the time and the way styles were mixed together to create the key characteristics found in the artwork of this era.

One key influence was Art Nouveau and the French Belle Epoque, stimulated particularly in the UK in 1966 by the inflammatory Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Art Nouveau was originally an aesthetic movement created by artists and artisans who sought to improve the quality of life through "uses in forms of beauty" - a similar preoccupation felt by young adults in the 60's. Particular reference will be made to the work of designers Michael English and Nigel Weymouth aka Hapshash and The Coloured Coat whose romantically surreal illustrations were at the forefront of UK design at this time.Their pioneering techniques in silkscreen pushed the boundaries of printing to new heights creating an even greater rift between the more sophisticated European printing techniques and the older plate method used by the American designers. Incredible detail, illustrative skill, interpretation of the subject and portrayal of a mood were all key elements in the work of this era. Exquisite examples of poster artwork from European and American artists will be explored such as Lee Conklin and the Dutch collective 'The Fool'. The latter design house became part of the Beatles entourage designing clothes, the band's boutique in London and John Lennon's Rolls Royce.

The influence of figures Mucha, Toulouse-Lautrec and Cheret began to dominate, notably through the artists use of lettering as a prominent compositional element, nouveau lines and the fluid melding of text. Lettering and its legibility will be explored in the section Can you Read? along with the development of the band logo with particular reference to perhaps the biggest band of all time - the Grateful Dead. Rick Griffin was the most influential artist from the West Coast both revered by his fellow artists and now celebrated as a unique talent of the era. An avid surfer from an early age Griffins' surf pictures and cartoon character 'Murphy' were soon being used on the covers of surf publications, records and comic books. Commissioned by Family Dog his poster 'Morning Paper' incorporated a mind blowing sequence of panels and nonsensical script.


As well as an example from the heady heights of psychedelic abstraction the poster was also a prime example of the music promoters' acceptance of art as a primary value. Inspirational Times brings together for the first time the largest collection of Griffin's work in a separate section, including original drawings, paintings and posters, captioned by his widow, Ida Griffin.

There is also a complete section on Dead Art, which includes most of the major artists featured in this exhibition. The Grateful Dead are synonymous with the history of American Rock Art, and features artwork and designs used for one of the biggest bands in Rock 'n Roll history. The Grateful Dead inspired some of the most recognisable icons in the history of graphic design, laying the foundations for the future development of the "band logo" and its development.

The early sixties saw two or three years of spectacular economic growth in the developed world. Inevitably, the mood of the period reflected the changed circumstance and a new liberalism spread across the West. Old attitudes and stale traditions were being swept aside and into this ferment of new music, sexual liberation, political radicalism, colourful clothes and unconventional lifestyles stepped LSD. This world is explored in the High Art section. Its illustrious early patronage particularly by characters such as Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and Jack Kerouac in the US and even earlier by Aldous Huxley in the UK, heralded it as the wonder drug which heightened one's senses and made colours glow. Such psychedelic experiences and concert light shows made a great impact on the visual density of the posters of this time.


Victor Moscoso was one of the main exponents of 'the second look' principle whereby an arresting image does not at first glance reveal its function. His use of psychedelic colours will be explored - the colours bright and often intense, creating illusions and bending of form. Inspirational Times also includes a section on the wonderful world of printing including an array of San Francisco printing plates many with their respective uncut proofs displayed alongside. They have been selected from the Peter Golding collection, the largest collection of such plates in existence today. The final section will follow the work of some of the main protagonists of the exhibition along with an impressive display of original strip advert artwork represented by Randy Tuten and original artwork from the punk era. In the UK in spite of a brief interaction with the punk scene when some of the revolutionary spirit was briefly felt, the art story took on a new persona.…

With its explanatory and colourful sections, the exhibition contains over 300 images selected from the archives, mostly of original artwork including sketches, illustrations and paintings. The exhibition will be hosted by Sothebys, London in January 2003. Write Angle sources exhibitions for tours of museums and galleries in Australia and New Zealand.