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Rock On! The Art of the Music Poster from the 60s and 70s

February 7 - May 23, 2004


The rock n' roll spirit is alive and well at the James A. Michener Art Museum this spring 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, and has been arranged by Dr. Graziella Marchicelli, SAMA' s Fine Arts Curator. (right: Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse; Grateful Dead and Oxford Circle at the Avalon Ballroom, September 16-17, 1966; 1966; offset lithograph; 20 x 14 inches)

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 20th century. These music posters represent part of a much larger collection of lithographs donated to SAMA in the mid-1980s by collector Mark Del Costello. 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. "It's unlike any Richard Avedon work I've ever seen," says curator Grazeilla Marchicelli. "Here was a leading American photographer of the 20th century, and you can see that he truly immersed himself in capturing the essence of each individual artist. As with many of these images, it's an example of the artist really being in tune with the subculture," Marchicelli says. (left: Gerald Scarfe; Pink Floyd, The Wall; (c) Pink Floyd Music Ltd.; offset lithograph; 48 x 33 inches)

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 19608. The Fillmore West and the Avalon Ballroom played host to some of the era's leading musical acts, including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, 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 U.S. in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

"These posters represented a unique marriage between what the graphic artists were doing and what these music groups and individuals were working toward," Marchicelli explains. "Often what tied them together was rebellion against establishment, or simply artists looking for their own voice. Many of the better known artists within the collection were actually looking back at the graphic arts and other art forms of the past and sort of re-inventing it by giving it a fresh new outlook."

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. (right: Arnold Skolnick; 3 Days of Peace and Music at Woodstock Music and Art Fair, White Lake, New York, August 15, 16, and 17, 1969; 1969; offset lithograph; 36 11/16 x 24 inches)

With 108 lithographs on display, the exhibition offers a brilliant visual feast for fans of rock music and graphic design. "The quality of these posters is really fantastic," Marchicelli says. "It's the kind of thing that's really difficult to obtain these days."

A number of special events and programs are planned in conjunction with Rock On! The Art of the Music Poster from the 60s and 70s, including a lecture by Curator Graziella Marchicelli on Tuesday, February 10 at 1 p.m.. and a lecture and booksigning by Larry Kane, author of Ticket to Ride, on Sunday, May 2 at 3 p.m., plus other events.

This exhibition and related educational programs have been funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

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