Behind the Beyond: Psychedelic Posters and Fashion in San Francisco, 1966−1971

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Essay © 2017 by Gary Westford
© 2017 by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art 
Softcover, full color, 32 pages
Available at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art starting 6/2/2017

In the mid-1960s, San Francisco would become the epicenter for a youth revolution that desired an end to war, racism, and gender inequality, while also proclaiming that individual sexual freedom and respect for the earth were desirable goals. It was against this backdrop that a new “psychedelic” culture, music, fashion, and poster scene would emerge in the city.

Behind the Beyond: Psychedelic Posters and Fashion 1966-71 explores and examines the development of this radical “psychedelic” poster, music, and fashion style. Artists including Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean, and others, reinvented the art of music posters. Using radical lettering, dissonant color combinations, and image appropriations derived from Art Nouveau, Pop and Op art, these “counterculture” artists proclaimed allegiance to, and produced posters for “The San Francisco Sound” rock groups (The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and others). Chet Helms Family Dog and Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium music venues, in concert with light show artist Bill Ham, and others, would create new environments and bring together young Americans to listen to an extremely diverse group of musicians, both black and white, in San Francisco.

On the streets of the city, a revolutionary new fashion sensibility would develop, using a wildly eclectic range of styles including Victorian, Native American, Middle Eastern, African, and the American West, that allowed for individual self-expression-from “free spirited” hippie to Haute Couture (high fashion).  

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