In addition to promoting a counterculture lifestyle and live music shows, some artists of the era used the poster as a form of mass-produced fine art. These posters employ elements frequently found in promotional posters of the era: neon colors of clashing vibrancy, the use of sylphlike female figures, overt references to various forms of spirituality, and a contrast of angular and curved lines. Black light posters mimicked the glowing effects of neon and psychedelic light shows.
The psychedelic aesthetic also drew on the European Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Characteristic of these two art movements are the use of flowing lines based on plant life, a symmetrical segmentation of the image, and distinctive letter forms. Examples of the use of these styles can be seen in Wes Wilson’s poster Byrds (below, left). The font employed in this image matches the font used by Alfred Roller, a key player in the Vienna Secessionist movement (an off-shoot of Art Nouveau. An example of one of Roller’s posters is shown below on the right.) The San Francisco poster artists adopted these earlier styles to suit their own purposes.
Image: Wes Wilson. American, born 1937. Byrds, Byrds, Byrds, 1967. Lithograph printed in color on paper. Published by West Coast Lithograph Company, San Francisco, California. Purchased.