The Psychedelic Poster Craze of the 1960s

“For centuries, the poster has been a useful tool for advertising coming attractions, warning of dangers both physical and spiritual, and publicly calling for political change. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that the idea of using posters for decoration really took off. For just a few bucks, a young person could instantly change the entire mood of a bedroom as political ideals shifted, new rock ’n’ roll bands came to prominence, or new social causes found footholds. As Herbert Gold discovered in 1968, the poster makers of San Francisco would say their posters were an art, not a business. Yes, but they were a business, too, and a lucrative one at that. Gold’s March 23, 1968, Post article ‘Pop Goes the Poster’ gives readers a closer look at the artists, artistry, and commerce of 1960s poster art. …Pop Goes the Poster By Herbert Gold – Originally published March 23, 1968. Sätty, the experimenter in poster art, is talking. ‘I am only on the first or second step of two hundred.’ Modestly he lowers his eyes. ‘Others must carry on my work. I need to communicate with others — a hundred million people in this country under 25.’ He lives with his wife in a white and airy apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay. He meditates and creates in an underground North Beach studio with incense, alcohol flames, rock music, a collection of clocks, a sort of altar, and a bed under a concrete stairway, surrounded by mirrors. As a child in Germany, he was shuttled back and forth under the bombs. He says he has a piece of shrapnel in his head and sometimes wears an eye patch. There is pressure on his nerves. The San Francisco poster makers — Sätty, Paul Olsen, Wes Wilson, Mouse, Victor Moscoso, and a dozen or so active others — may look like flower children, but their passion has become a mini-industry. Wes Wilson’s early posters sold over 300,000 copies in the first months of the craze. Companies like East Totem West, Funky Features, Astro, The Food, Sparta, and American Newsrepeat use jobbers and wholesaling agencies. What does this mean in financial terms? Well, say the poster makers, it’s an art, not a business. Yes, but it’s a business, too. ‘Half the population is under 25.’ Take the Haight-Ashbury poster, because it’s a sort of business, even the art people will admit. It’s a photo of Haight-Ashbury street signs fuzzed up and flowered up to look dreamy. It has sold about 80,000 copies at two dollars each. Profit? Well, the profit is shared among designer, producer, jobber, seller, but the producer alone has made about $40,000. It’s a friendly, flowery souvenir of the Haight. After which, perhaps, aesthetic criticism is in order. …”
Saturday Evening Post

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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