From Fillmore posters to some of the bravest LP covers in history like Sgt. Pepper’s, The Doors and After Bathing At Baxter’s, the collectible artistic ephemera of the Summer of Love still stands tall as a testimony to the freedom of expression that so permeated the 1960s.
Stuart Wilson at www.posterplanet.com, an online retail source, sees the growth in the market for ‘67 memorabilia and classic psychedelic posters from artists like Rick Griffin and John Van Hamersveld.
“The audience has been pretty steady, and values have increased over time regarding Summer of Love collectibles,” says Wilson. “People are looking for the iconic-type pieces that have stood the test of time. To spend a couple grand on a poster, you have to be real serious. I know there is a first printing of the [Alton] Kelly and [Stanley] Mouse Skeleton and Roses poster going for 8 to 15 grand ... mint condition. There is a demand for the Matrix posters, Doors, Grateful Dead, Hendrix, the Who and Quicksilver, who have always been a poster band. Detroit artist Gary Grimshaw is gaining popularity, along with Rick Griffin and John Van Hamersveld.”
One of the unsung visual art heroes of San Francisco is Dennis Loren, now experiencing a renaissance among Summer of Love memorabilia fans and psych-freaks. The Web site www.cahootsgraffix.com displays Loren’s catalog circa 1967, including his sanctioned poster rarity, The Jimi Hendrix Experience in Golden Gate Park, June 25, 1967.
Loren feels Griffin will be compared to Michelangelo in 100 years, and also cites Grimshaw, Van Hamersveld and Ron Cobb as his favorite artists of the era.
“John’s work for the Shrine posters were very subtle in his approach to color,” says Lorgen. “His Shrine posters are overlooked, and that’s because the focus was on San Francisco, where the poster art sort of came to bloom there. But, it doesn’t diminish the work of Gary Grimshaw in Detroit or John in L.A. Of all the psychedelic artists,
John is the most minimalist. He really came up with Griffin and Surfer magazine, and his iconic poster of ‘The Endless Summer,’ a very simple piece, and when the psychedelic thing happened, when you put Griffin next to Van Hamersveld, you’ll see a very simple take on it, where Griffin will go the other way. I also collected the cartoons of Ron Cobb, who did the album cover of 1967’s After Bathing At Baxter’s. It was the way he rendered things. His signature on the cartoons was almost a logo in itself, as was Griffin in a lot of ways. What I like about Cobb is what I like about Jim Phillips’ work. They love crowds. Phillips is from Santa Cruz and had gone to Boston and did posters for the Doors and Cream at the Boston Tea Party. He is much more famous for his skateboard artwork.”
When buying, Loren cautions, “Condition is very important. Sometimes a signed item will increase or decrease the value. The Summer of Love era is durable and vibrant, and one of the key reasons is that there are certain artists on the poster or what the poster is representing is probably very important.”
Loren cites Wes Wilson, who first did posters for Bill Graham and Chet Helms, as the godfather of posters.
“Wes was influenced by a guy named Alfred Roller from the 1800s,” says Loren. “His swimming, sensual style literally defines the psychedelic poster genre. Bonnie MacLean’s work is also being re-discovered. Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelly, Victor Moscoso and David Singer, who, at t