Following the newfound American Dream innocence of the 1950s, the 1960s shattered America’s innocence with the brutality of the Southeast Asia wars, a world-rocking presidential assassination, and a growing racial divide.
The 60s was the decade of America’s psychedelic movement, when teenagers turned away from the conventionalism of the 50s to experiment with mind-altering drugs. These LSD-inspired distorted perceptions appeared in rock concert posters to express the trippy feelings they were experiencing.
The Major players in American design were; Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso,Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol
Between 1966 and 1967, San Francisco rock poster artist Wes Wilson designed posters and handbills for the first Trips Festival, the last show by The Beatles, and dozens of concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium featuring everyone from The Association to Frank Zappa. Along the way, he defined the psychedelic poster, in which blocks of letters were used to create shapes, which seemed to bend and vibrate in place.
Wes Wilson, the father of the 1960s rock concert poster, came into the world via Sacramento, California on July 15, 1937. As a child his interests meandered among artistic pursuits and an intense love for the natural world. His post-secondary studies reflected these interests; he focused for a time on forestry and horticulture before eventually coming to philosophy. By the latter half of the 1960s Wes found much inspiration in the avant-garde neighborhoods of San Francisco. Serendipity interrupted all of his plans (as she’s wont to do) and Wes Wilson soon found himself creating fine art for the masses. His style, inspired by the Art Nouveau masters, took what was understood about promotional art and turned it inside-out. Nearly cryptic letters filled every available space, lines melted into lines, colors clashed… and the psychedelic poster was born. The love of art and nature eventually carried Wes away to the beautiful Ozarks foothills, where he still enjoys creating and discussing art and ideas.
“Are We Next?” from 1965 was a self-published poster printed at West Coast Litho to express, among other things, Wilson’s opposition to the Vietnam War
In 1966, Wes Wilson designed this poster for what turned out to be the last concert by The Beatles.