DENVER, CO.- The Denver Art Museum (DAM) celebrates the era that espoused free love, a vibrant rock music scene, and spectacular graphic design with The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-1971. The exhibition will showcase more than 250 wildly experimental and visually stunning works from DAMs newly acquired collection of posters promoting dance concerts and other happenings that have since become iconic symbols of the youth culture of the 1960s and 70s. Organized by the Denver Art Museum and curated by Darrin Alfred, DAMs AIGA assistant curator of graphic design, the exhibition will be on view from March 21, 2009 through July 19, 2009.
These posters reflect the psychedelic experience through a melting pot of hallucinatory imagery and unorthodox juxtapositions of electric colors, explained Alfred. The Psychedelic Experience will emphasize the poster artists, their patrons, and the many influences that shaped these significant works during a time of radical American social change.
The exhibition will take visitors through the psychedelic poster movements early years, where designs were influenced by the art of the past, including the curvilinear forms of the Art Nouveau movement and the bright, eye-popping intensity of 1960s Op Art.
Artists also were inspired by the full sensory experience of the dancehall environment, often reproducing it in their work. This was a time when rock music was differentiating itself from rocknroll, and the San Francisco music scene was stirred by multiple musical influences, including the British Invasion, the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s, Chicago electric blues and soul sounds from Memphis and Detroit. In later years, the posters took on a more surrealistic tone, with dreamlike and hallucinatory designs that appealed to the drug-oriented youth culture.
Also included in the exhibition are the predominant poster patrons, including renowned dance promoters Bill Graham from the Fillmore Auditorium and Chet Helms of the Family Dog. In many cases, these promoters gave graphic artists the freedom to create images that have remained in the public consciousness for decades.
Artists featured in the exhibition will include the movements major contributors, Wes Wilson, Bonnie MacLean, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Lee Conklin, David Singer, and design duo Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse Miller, among many others.
In January 2008, DAM announced that it had acquired 875 psychedelic posters from Boulder, Colorado, collector David Tippit. The collection consists of five sets, including a full first-print set of the Bill Graham and Family Dog series (1965-1970); a first-print set of Russ Gibb/Grande (1966-1970); a set of Neon Rose (1966-1968); and a fifth set comprised of important miscellaneous posters and handbills from 1965-1973. The DAM is the first museum to acquire a full collection of first-print sets of this size. Complete sets of these posters are rare and virtually impossible to assemble today, as many works are extremely difficult to locate in good condition.
Visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the era of experimentation and free thinking through video, music and interactive outlets available in the Martin & McCormick Gallery. Featuring access to the live music experience of the time, hands-on poster making and a do-it yourself light show, these experiences will bring the posters to life. The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-1971, is organized by the Denver Art Museum. Local support is provided by Accenture, Avanade, the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District and the generous donors to the Annual Leadership Campaign. Accenture is Denver Art Museums Technology Partner. Promotional support is provided by The Denver Post and 5280 Magazine. The exhibition will be on view in the Anschutz Gallery and the Martin & McCormick Gallery in the Hamilton Building from March 21, 2009 through July 19, 2009.