When the phrase “San Francisco rock posters” is uttered in certain circles, most people picture bold blocks of psychedelicized Art Nouveau lettering, a skeleton crowned by a garland of roses, shimmering collisions of equiluminant colors, and a flying eyeball peering through a burning ring of fire.
That describes the most iconic work of the so-called Big Five poster artists—Wes Wilson, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Rick Griffin.
But as good as those artists were (in the case of the late Griffin and Kelley) and are (in the case of the rest), it took more than just five artists to create all the posters and handbills required to publicize all the concerts produced during these years.
In addition, if it weren’t for the career pressmen at companies such as Bindweed Press, Cal Litho, West Coast Litho, and Tea Lautrec Litho, the drug-fueled dreams of some of these artists might never have seen the light of day.
“One of the best pressmen in the business was Levon Mosgofian, who owned and operated Tea Lautrec Litho.”
Recently, I was invited to curate an exhibition of San Francisco Bay Area rock posters at the San Francisco International Airport, whose SFO Museum produces more than 50 shows a year across 25 exhibition spaces for the 44 million travelers who pass through the airport annually.
My qualifications for this incredible honor are essentially a love of rock posters since I was a kid, membership on the board of The Rock Poster Society as an adult, and a collection of maybe 400 pieces, which is paltry compared to the holdings of most of the collectors who supplied posters to the show.
Thanks to their generosity, I was able to organize “When Art Rocked: San Francisco Music Posters, 1966-1971,” which features about 160 posters, along with another 100 or so postcards, handbills, tickets, and other scraps of ephemera from the era.
A smaller companion exhibit of 1960s fashion and design, curated by SFO’s Nicole Mullen, is located conveniently nearby.
Anthropomorphic birds and animals were another popular theme, as seen in this Christmas Reversed scene, where raw dinner ingredients get in a party mood.
Sending Christmas cards was a habit popularised by the Victorians, helped by the introduction, in 1840, of a uniform penny post.England’s first commercial Christmas card was printed in 1843, and is in the Laura Seddon collection at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Here, is a selection from its archive.
Showing that there’s little new about the tactics of trick-or-treaters, a group of festive musicians make their presence known, and demand beer.
This classic card was designed by the children’s book illustrator Walter Crane, a prominent member of the Arts and Crafts movement.
All Photographs: Ade Hunter/Manchester Metropolitan University
“The Taishō period^ (大正時代 Taishō jidai?), or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from July 30, 1912, to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Emperor Taishō”.
Some of the posters carry over to the early Shōwa era: Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito)^ reigned from 1926 to 1989.
Title: Puraton mannenhitshu: Puraton inki [Woman with an ink bottle] Description: A woman holding an ink bottle. Nakayama Taiyodo. Platon ink and pen (プラトンインキ, プラトン万年筆). Subject (company): Nakayama Taiyōdō; 中山太陽堂
Title: Kabushiki Kaisha Tōkyō Tsukiji Kappan Seizōsho = The Tokyo Tsukiji Type Foundry, Ltd. [Goddess] 株式會社東京築地活版製造所 Description: A goddess holding a musical instrument. Tokyo Tsukiji Type Foundry, Ltd. (東京築地活版製造所). Marked with “H” [Hirano, Tomiji 平野富二?]. Subject (Company): Foundries
These hand-tinted Japanese postcards are part of an exhibit titled “The Traveler’s Eye.” The postcards, produced in the early 20th century as Western visits to Japan increased in volume, show off the skills of Japan’s photo colorists.
The art of hand-tinting photographs, write the curators of a Harvard exhibit on the early photography of Japan, while first introduced in Europe, “became more refined and widespread” on the archipelago.
Many Japanese artists who had been employed by ukiyo-e woodblock studios found new employment with photographers when the popularity of photos pushed woodblocks out of fashion.
Wonderfully Kitschy Propaganda Posters Champion the Chinese Space Program (1962-2003)
A joint operation of five participating countries and the European Space Agency, the International Space Station is an enormous achievement of human cooperation across ideological and national boundaries.
Generations of people born in the nineties and beyond will have grown up with the ISS as a symbol of the triumph of STEM education and decades of space travel and research.
What they will not have experienced is something that seems almost fundamental to the cultural and political landscape of the Boomers and Gen Xers—the Cold War space race.
But it is worth noting that while Russia is one of the most prominent partners in ISS operations, current Communist republic China has virtually no presence on it at all.
But this does not mean that China has been absent from the space race—quite the contrary.
While it seems to those of us who witnessed the exciting interstellar competition between superpowers that the only players were the big two, the Chinese entered the race in the 1960s and launched their first satellite in 1970.
This craft, writes space history enthusiast Sven Grahn, “would lead to China being a major player in the commercial space field.” Since its launch into orbit, the satellite has continuously broadcast a song called Dong Fang Hong, a eulogy for Mao Zedong (which “effectively replaced the National Anthem” during the Cultural Revolution.
The satellite, now referred to, after its song, as DFH-1 (or CHINA-1), marked a significant breakthrough for the Chinese space program, spearheaded by rocket engineer Qian Xuesen, who had been previously expelled from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena for suspected Communist sympathies.
Advertising posters for music-hall cabaret shows in Paris in the late 19th century.
19th cent. french music-hall poster called: Tous les soirs, Thaumaturgie humoristique. Title: Folies-Bergère, tous les soirs, Thaumaturgie humoristique par le Comte Patrizio de Castiglione. Artist: Jules Chéret. Date: 1875.
19th cent. french music-hall poster of chimney sweeps. Title: Folies-Bergère…Les Prices, ramoneurs musicaux…Artist: F Appel (lithographer). Date: 1890.
Title: Folies Bergère : le Spectre de Paganini. Artist: F Appel (lithographer). Date: 1880