An eye-popping exhibit of psychedelic posters from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is currently on display at the Fullerton Museum. This extraordinary collection pays tribute to the unsung artists who helped create the iconography of the 60s, but remain far less well known than the rock stars they promoted.
By deliberately incorporating illegible hand-writing and a dizzying clash of colors into their work, the calligraphers and illustrators who created these placards cast off the conventional wisdom that promotional posters were supposed to be informative advertisements. Instead, these posters stand as works of art in their own right, which thumb their noses at the establishment just as enthusiastically as the musicians they endorse.
It’s particularly refreshing to see how effectively these artists worked within the limits of their medium. Today, just about every throw-away advertisement includes full-color photography. However, these 40-year-old posters, printed on Spartan two- or three-color ink presses, are far more stunning than any digitally-produced placard you’re likely to see tacked up on a lamppost outside a college dance club.
Each of the posters in this exhibit is thought-provoking, but several are worth a second look. Lee Conklin’s extraordinary posters promoting concerts by Steppenwolf and the Yardbirds call to mind M.C. Escher’s paradoxical optical illusions. Other posters borrow so heavily from copy-right free Victorian etchings that they seem to bridge two centuries (and provide a launching pad for the disturbing mash-up cartoons Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam would create in the early 1970s).
Arnold Skolnick's famous Woodstock poster is also on display in Fullerton. But while its image of a dove sitting on a guitar neck is easily recognizable, a closer look at its small print is sure to bring a giggle. In addition to listing the scheduled musicians, the poster also an mentions an enticing craft fair featuring “zodiac charts, camp clothes and old shoes” for people who “like playing with beads,” and points out that “there will be cokes and hot dogs and dozens of curious food and fruit combinations to experiment with.”
Experiment indeed! Unfortunately, Skolnick forgot to encourage concert goers to bring umbrellas.
Also on display at the museum is an exhibit of black light paintings by Adam Slater, and a whimsical collection of mosaics by Michael Leighton Coffee featuring the cast of “Star Wars” created out of condiment packets. And, as always, the Museum’s small tribute to Fullerton’s own Leo Fender is sure to bring a smile.
“Technicolor Dreaming” will remain on display in Fullerton through July 11. On the final day, families are invited to a special celebration featuring art projects and a scavenger hunt. For more information, please check the museum’s website at: