Hunter S. Thompson giving his concession speech at Hotel Jerome.
“If you’re going to curate an exhibition of vintage artwork related to the unorthodox and self-described gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, prepare for the process itself to become a bit, well, gonzo. Daniel Joseph Watkins learned this lesson the hard way. He had to figure out how to move ‘Freak Power,’ an exhibition featuring the visually striking campaign posters designed for Thompson’s 1970 run for county sheriff in Colorado, from his Aspen-based gallery to Poster House in Manhattan, where it’s open through Aug. 15. The posters, designed and silk-screened by the artist Thomas W. Benton, a close friend of Thompson’s and a fellow Californian turned Aspen activist, fused gut-punch electioneering (‘Sell Aspen or Save It’) with visceral imagery (a clenched fist set against a sheriff’s badge). Surviving samples in pristine condition now sell for upward of $25,000. But that price tag pales in comparison to owners’ intense emotional attachment. ‘It would have been much easier to borrow a Warhol or a Rothko from some of these people,’ laughed Watkins. ‘Unfortunately, later in his life, Benton became consumed with a drug habit and had been trading and selling his artwork to several drug dealers,’ he continued. One of those figures was willing to loan out several key Benton pieces. But he made it clear that if anything happened to them, filing an insurance claim would be the least of Watkins’s problems. A suitably warned Watkins felt there was ultimately one person he could entrust to ship the posters east: himself. So last month he loaded up a U-Haul with the contents of the exhibition and personally drove it the 30 hours and nearly 2,000 miles to Poster House’s front doors. ‘At night, I slept in the back of the truck with the artwork. I had a little bed there with a heated electric blanket. And I had a club,’ he recalled matter-of-factly. ‘I had a friend following me in another car in case anything went wrong, and we would pull over to sleep in various Walmart parking lots.’ … In addition to three dozen Benton posters, this show includes kinetic ink-splattered drawings by Ralph Steadman, whose illustrations accompanied many of Thompson’s articles; campaign trail photographs by the Aspen photojournalists David Hiser and Bob Krueger; and issues of The Aspen Wall Poster, a broadsheet newspaper designed by Benton and written by Thompson. …”
Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb (Video)
W – Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb