Friday, June 06, 2008

Alton Kelley (1941-2008)

From the outset of the great San Francisco psychedelic music scene that burned so brightly beginning in the late 1960s, promoters Wes Helms and Bill Graham commissioned artists to create posters for their dance concerts. They were mounted on walls, telephone poles and lampposts throughout the Bay Area and today fetch upwards of $20,000 for especially desireable examples, even those with thumb tack holes at the corners.

Although "psychedelic" is a term typically associated with drug use, it also describes art that seeks to reproduce the effects of psychedelic drugs, and in this a number of artists who were commissioned by Helms and Grahan excelled. These included Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and his longtime collaborator, Alton Kelley.

Kelly designed posters for Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company and many others that helped define the visual style of the 1960s counterculture, but he was best -- if usually anonymously -- know for his Skull and Roses poster for the Grateful Dead.

More here on Kelley, who died this week at his home in Petaluma, California.
Photograph by Bob Seidemann

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