Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Art of Rock - Graphic Sound in the 60's and Punk Graphics

The Art, Music and Recreation Center is presenting two small exhibits, Graphic Sounds In The 60's and Punk Graphics, through the end of November. These exhibits, consisting of images from our book collection, are located in a wall display case on the South wall opposite the atrium on the Fourth Floor of the Main Library.

Graphic Sound in the 60's

In the 1960’s San Francisco became home to a generation of people looking for a different way of life than those of their parents. They were known as hippies and valued free spirit, peace and harmony, and often alternative states of consciousness achieved by using hallucinogenic drugs. The music in San Francisco during this time was a reflection of this awareness. And in response, the posters promoting the musical groups took on a psychedelic edge. Art Nouveau images and Edwardian lettering provided inspiration as well. Many of these shows happened at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium. Five of the best known poster artists, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and Wes Wilson, became known as “The Big Five.”

Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley provided the images for many of the most popular rock artists of the 60’s; Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger service, Steve Miller Band, to name a few. The skull and roses image has become one of the strongest images associated with the Grateful Dead. Mouse and Kelley were the artists.

Victor Moscoso also gained fame for his poster work in San Francisco on 1967. He went on to work for Zap Comix with Robert crumb in the San Francisco Underground Comix movement.

Rick Griffin grew up in Palos Verdes and participated in Ken Kesey's Acid Test. After seeing work by Moscoso and Kelley he moved up to San Francisco and started working on his graphic art. The music promoter Chet Helms liked his work and invited him to create posters for Family Dog and the Avalon Ballroom. Griffin, like Moscoso, was part of the Underground Comix movement.

Wes Wilson, born in 1937, is known for his "psychedelic" lettering that appeared to be melting or moving. He designed posters for Bill Graham and the Fillmore Auditorium during the 1960's.

Frank Kozik was not a part of the “Big Five” and actually became active in Austin, Texas in the late 1980’s but has been credited as reviving the art of the concert poster. Born in Spain in 1962, he moved to TX at the age of 14 and now works in San Francisco. He is well known in the music poster world and his work is quoted as “simulating the intensity of the rock scene he has long been affiliated with, his art acts as a pictorial introduction to the musical experience”. The book Man’s Ruin: The Poster Art of Frank Kozik offers a look into the artist’s process with notes written by Kozik and the artists he was friends with.

Punk Graphics

The punk poster was designed for the moment.

The graphic artist, more than occasionally one of the band members, would create the music visuals and Xerox as many as he/she could afford or finagle. Flyers and handbills were taped to club walls, stapled to telephone poles and papered the streets. This art was left to be covered by the next shows’ flyers, to fade in the elements and rot in the rain. They were quickly made, bold, B&W blasts, created to spread the word of the band and then left to become trash.

Different than their 60s and early 70s psychedelic predecessors which used technology to evoke the “pretty” aesthetics of the Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, the punk poster aesthetic was different. It was typically satirical or political and was almost always emotionally raw. As Devo is quoted, “the more technology you have, the more primitive you can be. With synthesizers you can express guttural sounds, bird noises, brain waves, blood flow.” Similarly, punk posters evoked a primitivism.

Just as Raymond Pettibon, the graphic artist for Los Angeles’ Black Flag, went on to international acclaim as a highly-collectible visual artist, the Bay Area punk movement also launched careers. Pepe Moreno is best known for his DC Comic creation, Batman: Digital Justice, as well as video and arcade games such as HellCab. An Rafferty remains a freelance artist, having worked for Thrasher, Warner New Media and Klasky-Csupo, among others. Edwin Heaven, designer and promoter for The Tubes and The Nuns, continues to mold popular culture through advertising slogans, creative writing and novelty inventions. Patrick Miller, Minimal Man creator, worked in Hollywood as a set designer and dresser.

Other artists might be forgotten if not for archivists Peter Belsito, Bob Davis, Marian Kester and the local publisher Last Gasp. Their books Streetart: The Punk Poster in San Francisco 1977-1981, and Hardcore California: A History of Punk and New Wave offer a comprehensive look at the posters of the time.

Nervous Gender by An Rafferty (used by permission of the artist)


Art of Modern Rock: The Poster Explosion by Paul Grushkin & Dennis King; foreword by Wayne Coyne (Chronicle Books, 2004).

The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk by Paul Grushkin; artworks photographed by Jon Sievert (Abbeville Press, 1987).

The Blues Album Cover Art, edited by Graham Marsh & Barrie Lewis (Chronicle Books, 1996).

Cover Art By: New Music Graphics designed, written & edited by Adrian Shaughnessy (Laurence King, 2008).

Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album by Matthew Robertson; foreword by Tony Wilson (Chronicle Books, 2007).

Fly: The Art of the Club Flyer by Nicola Ackland-Snow, Nathan Brett, and Steven Williams (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1997).

Freehand: The Art of Stanley Mouse by Stanley Mouse, with joint works by Alton Kelley; introduction by Joel Selvin; foreword by Mickey Hart; essay by Walter Madeiros (SLG Books, 1993).

The Greatest Album Covers of All Time by Barry Miles, Grant Scott and Johnny Morgan (Collins & Brown, 2005).

High Art: A History of The Psychedelic Poster by Ted Owen, Denise Dickson (Sanctuary, 1999).

In The Groove: Vintage Record Graphics, 1940-1960 by Eric Kohler (Chronicle Books, 1999).

Man's Ruin: The Posters & Art of Frank Kozik by Frank Kozik (Last Gasp, 1995).

Mouse & Kelley by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley (Dell Pub. Co., 1979).

Modern Dog: 20 Years of Poster Art (Not Canine-Related) by Robynne Raye, Michael Strassburger; introduction by Steven Heller; interviews by Rick Valicenti and James Victore (Chronicle Books, 2008).

Off The Wall: Psychedelic Rock Posters from San Francisco compiled by Amélie Gastaut and Jean-Pierre Criqui (Thames & Hudson, 2005).

100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind The Sleeves compiled and written by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell; design by Richard Evans, et al. (DK Pub., 1999)

Punk on 45: Revolutions on Vinyl 1976-79 by Gavin Walsh; text by Paul A. Woods (Plexus, 2006).

Rock Art: CDs, Albums & Posters by Spencer Drate; foreword by Roger Dean (PBC International, 1993).

To search the catalog for similar books enter the following Subject Headings:

Advertising flyers
Rock music -- Posters
Sound recordings -- Album covers

To browse the shelves, go directly to these key Call Numbers:



aleah said...

So glad to have stumbled across this well-researched and oh-so interesting article on rock art! Another great resource that I've used is The Art of Rock. Looks like you have it in your system, definitely worth a look. Wes Wilson designed the cover art, beautiful illustrations through-out.

San Francisco Public Library, Art, Music and Recreation Center said...

Thank you for your kind words and your suggestion. We have added The Art of Rock to our bibliography.

D.King said...

You might want to revise the section on Frank Kozik who first became active in the late 1990s in Austin, Texas, not in San Francisco during the sixties.

You should consider adding the two books which are available on the great Rick Griffin to your collection. He is widely considered to be the most influential artist of the era. The books are Ginko Press' "Heart and Torch" and "Rick Griffin" published by Last Gasp.

- Dennis King, "Art of Modern Rock"

San Francisco Public Library, Art, Music and Recreation Center said...

Thank you Dennis King for the correction and suggestions.