Posters produced in the 1970s for The Fillmore, the legendary San Francisco music venue made famous by industry pioneer Bill Graham, were renowned for their psychedelic styling. Between 1967 and 1971, Tea Lautrec Litho, a specialist printing house operated by Levon Mosgofian, produced over 200 posters advertising Graham’s constantly shifting roster of weekly performances. The Fillmore’s regular performers went on to form a compendium of rock and roll history and included the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Pink Floyd.[1]

Graham deliberately commissioned local artists from the San Francisco hippie scene to design The Fillmore’s posters, incorporating free-wheeling West Coast rock culture into the graphic identity of the venue. The hand-drawn style of this lithographic poster is typical of the work of Norman Orr, who designed more than a dozen posters for Graham in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[2] Advertising a four-day holiday concert series in December 1970, this poster takes a drawing after Rembrandt van Rijn’s 1657 oil painting Christ with Arms Folded as its central image. Hand-lettered text inspired by circus type and bubble lettering contrasts with the classical depiction of Jesus and provides information about the show as well as the performers, which range from New York-based soul group The Voices of East Harlem to Little Princess 109’s accompanying “liquid light show.”

Poster, The Association, 1966; Designed by Wes Wilson (American, b. 1937); Offset lithograph on white wove paper; 51 × 33.8 cm (20 1/16 × 13 5/16 in.); Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer, 1979-34-25

The clarity and toned-down color palette in Orr’s poster design distinguish his style from the work of Wes Wilson, another of Graham’s prolific designers. Characterized by Art Nouveau-inspired lettering in psychedelic colors and abstracted arrangements, Wilson’s poster for a concert in July 1966 is difficult to decipher, prioritizing style over legibility.

This poster is included in Esperanza Spalding Selects, on view June 9, 2017–January 7, 2018.

[1] Ben Marks, “Was Levon Mosgofian of Tea Lautrec Litho the Most Psychedelic Printer in Rock?,” Collectors Weekly, September 22, 2014, http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/was-levon-mosgofian-the-most-psychedelic-printer-in-rock/ .

[2] “Project Gallery: Vintage Fillmore Posters,” NormanOrr.com, Accessed May 18, 2017, http://www.normanorr.com/project-gallery/graphic-illustrations/vintage-fillmore-posters .

Ria Murray is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Fellow in the museum’s Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design Department.

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