Published: February 3, 2004
The rock n’ roll spirit is alive and well at the James A. Michener Art Museum as the museum presents “Rock On! The Art of the Music Poster from the 60s and 70s,” an exhibition of more than 100 vintage offset lithographs inspired by musical icons of that era, from February 7 through May 23, 2004, in the Wachovia Gallery.
Sponsored by William Draper Cabinetmaker and US Trust, the exhibition is drawn from the permanent collection of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA), and has been arranged by Dr Graziella Marchicelli, SAMA’s fine arts curator. This exhibition and related educational programs have been funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
From late 1960s psychedelia through the emergence of punk in the late 1970s, “Rock On!” highlights the work of leading graphic artists who fused their visual talents with the musical vision of the era’s influential bands to create some of the most enduring pop culture images of the Twentieth Century. These music posters represent part of a much larger collection of lithographs donated to SAMA in the mid-1980s by collector Mark DelCostello. The exhibition includes images of such musical icons as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen and the Clash.
Featured artists include Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, the San Francisco-based team who created the Grateful Dead’s famous skull-and-rose emblem. Among the highlights is a 1966 image of Bob Dylan created by artist Milton Glaser, which shows the rock legend in black silhouette with brightly colored hair fanning out above him in patterns inspired by Islamic designs. The poster would become an icon for a whole generation of graphic artists. Also included is Brian Duffy’s memorable 1973 image of David Bowie, taken for the cover of his album Aladdin Sane.
Noted photographer Richard Avedon is another featured artist, whose colorful 1967 photographs of the Beatles, taken for Look magazine, represented a major departure from the elegant, black-and-white images for which he was known.
Many of these posters came out of the San Francisco Bay Area, home to a crop of young visual artists and two now legendary rock clubs during the 1960s. The Fillmore West and the Avalon Ballroom played host to some of the era’s leading musical acts, including Janis Joplin, Dylan, Hendrix, and the Grateful Dead. Their promotional posters for rock n’ roll acts represented a unique intersection of fine art, music and commerce. These colorful and highly creative designs reflected not only the popular music of the period but also the “hippie” ethos and anti-war, anti-establishment attitudes that were prevalent in San Francisco and across the United States in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
Later posters, such as those created by British artist Jamie Reid, were instrumental in creating the visual look of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s, promoting bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash, as well as New York’s famous CBGB nightclub. Reid has been described as the “arch anarchist artist” and was responsible for creating the original artwork for the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK.
With 108 lithographs on display, the exhibition offers a brilliant visual feast for fans of rock music and graphic design.
A number of special events and programs are planned in conjunction with the exhibition including a lecture by Marchicelli on Tuesday, February 10, at 1 pm; a lecture and book signing by Larry Kane, author of Ticket to Ride, on Sunday, May 2, at 3 pm; a rock n’ roll dance party on Saturday, April 17, at 8 pm; a discussion with concert photographer Jared Polin on Wednesday, April 21, at 7 pm; a free Sunday afternoon Beatles film series; and a documentary and discussion series on “The Sixties: America’s Decade of Crisis and Change” presented in collaboration with the Bucks County Free Library.
Also in conjunction with “Rock On!,” the Children’s Gallery will host a special exhibition titled “Retro Rhythms: The High School Perspective,” featuring works by students from Central Bucks East and Central Bucks West High Schools, from February 7 through 29.
The James A. Michener Art Museum is at 138 South Pine Street. For information, www.michenerartmuseum.org 215-340-9800.
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