Psychedelic: Rock Posters of the 1960s at The Dowse

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Published: 25 November 2022


These are just a few of the iconic names that graced the mind-bending rock posters plastered across San Francisco at the height of the psychedelic era. Now, over half a century later these very posters are on display at The Dowse Arts Museum in Lower Hutt, in the only collection of its kind in Aotearoa.

San Francisco was a mecca for the hippie generation who flocked to the bohemian Haight-Ashbury district in the mid-1960s, rejecting ‘the Establishment’ in favour of an ideology of peace and love, sexual liberation, and experimentation with mind-altering drugs.

A rock scene emerged, inspired by the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, which produced influential bands like Janis Joplin’s Big Brother and the Holding Company, Buffalo Springfield featuring Neil Young, as well as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Steve Miller Band, and many more.

Their psychedelic gig posters were created by some of the most influential graphic artists of the day. Luminaries like Wes Wilson, Stanley Mouse and Victor Moscoso, whose bright colours, kaleidoscopic patterns, free-flowing lines, and hand-drawn typography captured the spirit of this extraordinary time and place and helped to define the era.

New Zealand scientist Mike Fitzgerald was fascinated by these eye-catching posters when he arrived at the University of California, Berkeley in 1965 to begin his PhD in zoology.
Mike wasn’t interested in the music or the drugs, but made a habit of collecting surplus posters whenever they were being handed out on campus.

Little did Mike know that he was building a valuable collection of design history, which would be tucked away in the cupboard of his Stokes Valley home from 1969 until 2010, when he and his wife Alice gifted the collection of over 40 posters to Massey University’s College of Creative Arts – Toi Rauwhārangi, as a reference and inspiration to a new generation of design students.

Psychedelic: San Francisco Rock Posters of the 1960s, is on at The Dowse until the 19th of February, 2023 and is produced in partnership with Massey University, with the generous support of the US Embassy in New Zealand.