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Summer of Love Exhibit: Psychedelic Art: 1967-2017

Psychedelic Art: 1967-2017

What is Psychedelic Art?

The Psychedelic Art movement during the 60s is difficult to define, due to the visual scope of the work created; this is perhaps appropriate given the strong attraction at the time to concepts like freedom and resistance to patriarchy. The term “psychedelic” pertains to psychedelic drugs (mainly LSD) and the resulting hallucinations that occur when used.  LSD stands for “lysergic acid diethylamide” which is a synthetic crystalline compound developed in Switzerland in 1938 by Albert Hofmann.

Experimentation with the drug by artists and musicians increased by the mid-sixties and many sought to recreate their experiences (or the experience as described by others) through their creative endeavors. Much of the rock concert posters and other artwork in this exhibit is visually reflective of shapes, colors, and distortion popularized during the Summer of Love.

Psychedelic art is typically characterized by:

• Bright colors, often fluorescent and highly saturated

• Contour line, meaning curvy or natural

• Dreamlike imagery evoking the hallucinatory visions resulting from drug usage

• Illegible typeface, where balloon proportions or negative space could be used to define each letter

Psychedelic Art Influences


Art Nouveau:  A popular art movement that spanned 30 years between 1890-1910, it is most notable for the use of nature, flowers and plants.  Alphonse Mucha (b.1860- d.1939), a noted artist of the Art Nouveau movement, created many famous posters advertising performances by Sarah Bernhardt, commercially produced cookies or soap, and even money for the Republic of Czechoslovakia, his homeland.


Op Art: Op art is short for “Optical Art,” where line, shape and color are used to create the illusion of movement, such as spiraling lines or flashing dots. The term was first used in 1964, in an issue of Time magazine. Bridget Louise Riley (b.1931-), a prominent artist of the Op Art movement, created paintings and murals where squares appeared to be moving. Riley, interestingly, only began to experiment with color starting in 1967.


Surrealism: This art movement (which became prominent in the 1920s) was complex, but many famous artists such as Salvador Dalí (b.1904-d.1989) created work that was realistic yet dreamlike; with melting clocks (which symbolized a rejection of time as rigid), floating windows, or faceless people.

Alan Aldridge | 1938-2017


Over the course of his 40-year career, Alan Aldridge has been the design guru for the Beatles; a designer of gigs and album covers for the Rolling Stones, Elton John, the Who, Cream, and Led Zeppelin; the target of police prosecution for his notorious Chelsea Girls poster; the author of the bestselling children's book The Butterfly Ball; and a graphic designer for the Hard Rock Cafe, the House of Blues, and the New York Times.


For additional information about Alan Aldridge, or to view their work, check out:The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes: The Art of Alan Aldridge

Rick Griffin | 1944-1991


Influenced by surfing culture and Native American culture and artifacts, Rick Griffin’s most notable contribution was his approach to typography, which was sometimes purposefully illegible. A good example of this is in the poster for a Chuck Berry concert he created with Victor Moscoso in 1967.  You can view this poster in the left hand free standing case of this exhibit.


For additional information about Rick Griffin, or to view their work, check out: Rick Griffin By Rick Griffin, Gordon McClelland

Bonnie MacLean | 1939-


Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Bonnie MacLean moved to San Francisco in 1964 where she began working at the Allistar Chalmers Equipment Manufacturing Company for the company’s office manager, Bill Graham. When Graham started up the Fillmore venue MacLean followed, eventually they married, and she picked up as the house poster artist following Wes Wilson’s departure. MacLean’s work is notable for the use of culturally diverse images and the use of faces with a range of expressions. Her artistic vision also introduced Medieval and Gothic forms with a sense of elegance. Many of her posters are held by the Brooklyn Museum and some by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


For additional information about Bonnie MacLean or to view her work, please visit

Peter Max | b. 1937-


In the mid to late sixties “...Max’s posters were hanging in college dorms all across America with several million sold in nine months. His posters were to the ‘60s what MTV was to the early ‘80s – radical, revolutionary and in demand. ‘Peter Max’s posters show him to be a visionary fascinated by time, space and evolution,’ wrote reporter Don McNeil - Village Voice, Aug. 31, 1967. To the youth of America, the ‘sixties’ was more than just another decade; it was the great American renaissance.”

For additional information about Peter Max, or to view their work, visit:

Victor Moscoso |  b. 1936-


Moscoso is one of the preeminent graphic artists of the 20th century, who is widely renowned for his 1960s psychedelic posters and comics. Moscoso began designing posters for rock shows in San Francisco in 1966, and quickly developed a signature style in which opposite hues of the same intensity sit next to each other to create a visual "vibration" effect.  


For additional information about Victor Moscoso, or to view their work, visit:

Wes Wilson | b. 1937-


Wes Wilson is most famous for his music poster art for the Fillmore and Avalon venues. “By the latter half of the 1960s Wilson found much inspiration in the avant-garde neighborhoods of San Francisco. Serendipity interrupted all of his plans (as she's wont to do) and Wilson soon found himself creating fine art for the masses. His style, inspired by the Art Nouveau masters, took what was understood about promotional art and turned it inside-out. Nearly cryptic letters filled every available space, lines melted into lines, colors clashed... and the psychedelic poster was born.”  


For additional information about Wes Wilson, or to view their work, visit:

50 years later: Contemporary Visionary Art


Fast forward to 50 years after 1967 and artists today are still inspired by many of the same philosophical fundamentals and creative artworks that emerged from the psychedelic art movement. ​​Current artists such as Alex Gray, Michael Devine and Kelsey Brookes have been inspired by the Psychedelic Art movement and are creating work that is colorful, curvilinear, and invites the viewer into a state of spiritual contemplation.The more rencent Contemporary Visionary art movement is characterized by: Spirituality, dreams, mysticism, humanism, and anatomy.

Kelsey Brookes | b. 1978-

“The brain and its product, the mind, are a fascinating subject; I question existence, both philosophically and scientifically, and because of my background, a good place to start my interrogation of life is through the material science of the brain.”

For additional information about Kelsey Brookesy, or to view their work, visit:

Michael Devine | b. 1976-

“At times, it might seem hard to catch that which cannot be caught – to find it – dance with it – as soon as you reach, it is gone. Look and it has vanished. My work is about that, too. It’s about that dance. The parts that seem ugly or chafe against me or rub me the wrong way – the parts where there is longing, a desire for a connection, the illusion of shells, of skins, of perceptions. It’s about all of it.”

For additional information about Michael Devine, or to view their work, visit:

Alex Gray | b. 1953-

“The psychedelic sixties spawned a new kind of poster art, leading many painters in a visionary direction.”

“ What unites... visionary artists is the driving force and source of their art: their unconventionally intense imaginations. Their gift to the world is to reveal “in minute particulars,” as Blake would say, the full spectrum of the vast visionary dimensions of the mind.”

For additional information about Alex Gray, or to view their work, visit:

Bill Ogden | n.d.

“Whereas before I was trying to show the feeling of being a surfer on the beach, living that free life...Right now, I’m working on this theme putting humanity, the planet earth, and the universe all in the same box.”

For additional information about Bill Ogden, or to view their work, visit:


The following is a list of books featured in the exhibit that highlight art and artists of 1967:


The following is a list of books featured in the exhibit highlighting art and artists whose work is inspired by the Psychedelic Art movement: