Summer of Love: Psychedelic Posters from SCMA
June 14–September 15, 2013
A trip to San Francisco in the sixties
Featuring designs by some of the major California poster artists of the 1960s, Summer of Love explores one visual side of 20thcentury American counterculture through a popular medium that vividly evokes a particular place and time.
In their attempt to target disaffected youth in the Bay area, the 70+ posters in the exhibition explore life in San Francisco during the late 1960s through the lens of the era’s concerts, drug use, and cultural gatherings.
During the 1960s poster art underwent a radical transformation, emerging as an important means of communication within a unique period of political and social change. The time period saw a crucial shift from the mass-produced poster as an advertising agent to an art form with a goal of socio-political hybridization.
In their day, psychedelic posters served as a kind of visual “social media,” attracting and linking their main audience: young people in San Francisco. At the same time—with their provocative imagery and messages, inventive typography, and distinctive palette–the posters gained attention far beyond San Francisco where they were first posted or distributed.
Summer of Love showcases art that promoted concerts at iconic ‘60s venues such as the Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom. The posters also promoted art shows, human “be-ins,” and the legal use of consciousness-expanding drugs.
Culled from the Museum’s permanent collection, these seldom-seen works are by the major poster artists of the 1960s such as Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and Wes Wilson, among others. In many of these works, visitors will also notice the visual influence of the 19th century art movements Art Nouveau and Art Deco.
Several posters will be displayed under black light, as they would have been shown in teenagers’ bedrooms. Augmenting the visual experience, American classic rock music recordings from the 1960s and 1970s will be played in the gallery.
Summer of Love is supported by the Judith Plesser Targan, class of 1953, Art Museum Fund.
Image credit: Bonnie MacLean. American, born 1949. Martha and the Vandellas, 1967. Lithograph printed in color on paper. Published by Creative Lithograph Company, Oakland, California. Purchased. Photo: Petegorsky/Gipe