Design & Art History – The Psychedelic Movement (CA 1960 – 1970)

In the late sixties something happened to an american generation that would mark them forever. It is a story of war, the struggle for racial equality and the explosion of counter culture, it was a time when a generation rebelled, and lost its innocence in the fight against injustice. Vietnam was the first ever televised war, and the images were inescapable.A decade that ended with disillusionment and rage began on a moral high note. Thanks to 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 very difficult to select just one thing to focus on. Even though there is an absurd amount of art and design that stems from this time period. When we talk about the “sixties” all we seem to recognise is the music, psychedelic rock and artists like Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix in particular.Album art and festival posters however is a good 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 most of the visual artists at the time is a relation with “Underground Comix”. These were small press or self published comic books, usually socially relevant and satirical in their nature. These depicted content deemed unfit and forbidden to the more strict mainstream media.Rick Griffin:
When we look up band posters it is hard to avoid finding 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 included both film 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. After studying art at the Cooper Union in New York and later attending Yale University, he moved to San Francisco in 1959 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. Here he later became an instructor. He was one of the first of the rock poster artists to use photographic collages in his art work.His art and poster work has continued up to the present and he is a big inspiration to rock poster and album illustrators to this day.Bonnie MacLean:
Another American artist making 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 at 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 leading illustrators of psychedelic posters in the 1960`s. Working with Bill Graham and Bonnie MacLean, he was a big part of promoting venues at the time with posters and illustrative work for musicians and bands. The font and lettering of the posters from this era were created 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 that the psychedelic movement is still influencing artists, especially in the world of metal, desert rock and stoner rock. The style is very much still alive as its own staple.Modern poster styles:
Posters still influenced by the styles of art work can be traced through homages and inspirations in rock and metal posters from the present all the way back to this era. Several modern posters can be viewed on the web pages of Malleus Rock Art Lab if you should be interested. I personally find a lot of inspiration through their imagery.Thank you for reading.

What Is Art and Who Is an Artist? 30,000 Years of Human Art History

Why does abstract art exist today? Why in fact has abstract art, minimalist art and performance art superseded representational and realistic art as the highest forms of art?In our Eurocentric art world my observation is that ever since the middle ages man has become capable of mathematically accurate, perspective based, “photorealist” reproductions in 2 dimensional art, i.e., paintings and drawings.Certainly this mastery took place thousands of years before in three dimensional art, i.e., sculptures and bas reliefs.Understanding the mathematical models and templates required in order to take a three dimensional object and render it with an accurate vanishing perspective was the key to creating the realist illusion in two dimensional spaces on paper, canvas and walls.The mastery of the mathematically accurate perspective form of art by the high artists from 1400 A.D. forward has been so complete and the high artists have become so adept at creating a three dimensional reality in two dimensions, that the perceiver could see and feel “magic” in the illustrations and paintings during the prior nearly five centuries.We can call that moment when the artists’ creation gives the viewer a sense of magic a “wow moment”.This Wow moment or sense of magic came through due to an appreciation by the viewer of the absolute mastery of and the perfection of the techniques utilized to create these three dimensional illusions within the confines of a two dimensional space.It is known that the ancient Greeks and later the Chinese had developed room sized imaging “machines” that would capture an image and cast it through a pin hole onto a wall or “canvas”. The disadvantages of this “cast image” technology were; 1.) The image appeared upside down, 2. The image was blurred and 3.) The image had to be traced onto a wall by a skilled artisan. Although this technology appeared thousands of years ago, just as certainly it did not become popular nor did it force an evolution of art and a wholesale rethink on the part of artists due to the fact that the technology required A.) a huge expense and B.) it was time consuming.Then came the advent of the modern camera imaging technology photographic capturing technologies.Following the invention of cameras & photographs what happened next? Where did the 500 year magic of representational art go?It was perfectly clear, especially to the artists of that time, that the magic of these painterly illusions was lost forever! Cameras including still and movie cameras were the instruments of destruction invented so that anyone with the device could render a three dimensional scene onto a two dimensional plate or other surface and the image could be hung and saved on a wall.The first cameras that included methods of saving the images in photographs appeared in the around 1840 AD.Virtually overnight a new generation of artists and viewers, including, art critics, were required to contemplated a continuation and rehashing of what had become five centuries of traditional representational art.Facing a future of irrelevance, they came to the conclusion that for the arts to survive the Fine Art’s World needed a new vocabulary to communicate with.Development of the still photo culminated in the advent of not only photography but “moving pictures”. Ever since Fine Artists in general have been struggling with the “why” aspects of their creations, i.e., why create art that is realistic when a camera does it so much better? Or why create plays when a movie does it so much better.The realization that the camera and photography had destroyed the magic of representational art let to its evolution into abstract art. The musings about where to go with their art amongst artists have led to the dissection, specialization and ultimately the ‘minimalization’ of art in a pursuit of answers as to how to find the magic in art and how to effectively communicate with the observers to achieve the same wonder elicited by the artists of old who were the seers and shaman creating images on walls and foretelling the future by the light of ancient flickering fires.