THE SUMMER OF LOVE (PART V) POSTERIZED
When I reached my teen years I made it a point to try to cover every square inch of my
bedroom with newspaper and magazine photos of my idols: The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel,
Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Willis Reed, Thurman Munson, Ray Charles, etc. My mom was
always upset about the tack holes in the wall. When I got to college my dorm room was
bedecked with NY Times' full-page ads for the new theatre season or movie stars I loved.
Yes, there were some exotic beauties as well. Dorm life can be lonely. Today, my home is
no longer replete with film or theatre posters. Sad!
I think I got hooked on design and illustrations in the mid-to-late Sixties because an entire
industry burgeoned to take advantage of the youth market. Pop stars, television stars,
movie stars, rock & roll stars, sports stars...and even political figures all got "posterized!"
The guru of the period was Peter Max (who painted the poster above). He specialized in
depicting counter-culture imagery, often with a psychedelic bent. He was a multi-media
wizard who employed every color in the spectrum. Many critics considered it less than
great art, but art critics have always looked down their noses at illustrators. More than
any other artist, he captured the zeitgeist of the late 60s, just as Andy Warhol and Roy
Liechtenstein exploded a few years earlier with the Pop Art revolution and its sister
movement Op Art.
Max had a clean design. He scrupulously "colored" within the lines. His experimentation with
color and line and collage owes a good deal to his predecessors. Below is a 1967 poster for
Godard's film that employs collage to memorable effect. The poster became an iconic example
of Pop Art. It may look familiar. Below that are classic images from Warhol and Liechtenstein.
Soon albums started to include poster art. I had the poster below in my room in 1969. It
stared back at me while I memorized the lyrics to all the songs and tried hard to sing
Artie's parts before my voice fully changed! It also romanticized the New York City I loved.
I had a large poster that I stole from the train station in town for the Give a Damn program
run by the New York Urban Coalition. I collected money door-to-door to help raise funds
for the construction of a pocket park in the less affluent parts of the city. I no longer
have the giant poster, but below is a picture of the button I wore and a powerful public
service announcement of the period.
Many of the posters of the period tapped into Art Nouveau from the end of the 19th Century. The
work of Alphonse Mucha was especially popular. The illustrations were rococo in design with
exotic lettering. The women he depicted were mysterious and sultry. I spent hours trying to replicate them when I planned to be an illustrator. Below are original Muchas and some derivatives from the 1960s.
The most prominent poster art of the period were created for concerts at
the Fillmore West or Fillmore East , classic rock and blues venues in San
Francisco and New York run by promoter Bill Graham. These posters can sell for
hundreds or even thousands today. Everybody tried to replicate the swirly,
psychedelic, balloon lettering technique. The posters were hard to read but incredibly
eye-catching. Below are two examples.
Of course, there were a million posters designed to make political statements of some sort.
You might have a Bobby Kennedy or Gene McCarthy poster in 1968. I guess you could have
also had a "Nixon's the One!" poster, but I didn't know anyone who had that hanging in his
room. Here are a few from the period. Hope you enjoyed this retrospective.