Monday, May 24, 2010

Fullerton Museum in a Purple Haze

I had about 45 minutes to kill before seeing Monkey Wrench Collective's production of "pool (no water)", up in Fullerton, so I walked around the block and discovered the Fullerton Museum Center, which I had not yet visited in my 23 years living in the OC. And I'm glad I did.

I had heard about their permanent exhibit about Leo Fender, creator of the legendary Fender electric guitar, who was born in Anaheim and went to high school in Fullerton.

Programmatically, it made total sense, then, that they are presenting an exhibition of psychedelic posters from 1960s San Francisco (and a few from London). Most are two-color showcards that reflect the initial influence of Art Nouveau and the woodcuts of Aubrey Beardsley (books of his work were very popular in the 60s and 70s). But it's interesting to observe their evolution as they embrace a typography that is more contemporary and, alternatively, submerge the type into the design to the extent that it is almost unreadable, concealed within the fluidity of the illustrations. I have to think that it was less important to know which band was playing (Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who, Big Brother & the Holding Company, etc.), dates, times and ticket prices, than to see a poster like that and just know that it stood for the next lineup at Fillmore.

You only had to see the contrast between them and the one poster on display from Woodstock--in which the marketers ruled the design so that everything was readable in an instant--to realize that, for presenter Bill Graham, advertising was more about the mystique he created--and that brand was recognizable instantly to the market that mattered to him.

The exhibit is punctuated by a few flat screen TVs with looped videos of Jimi Hendrix playing his (Fender?) with his teeth and the inimitable voice of Grace Slick piercing through the Jefferson Airplane instrumentals.

In further homage to the period, black light paintings by a contemporary artist, Adam Slater, are also being exhibited.

It all reminded me of the song Incredible String Band (also featured on some posters in the exhibit) called "Way Back in the 1960s" which came out in 1967 and wryly satirized all those who were taking themselves just a bit too seriously.

PS--tie-dyed t-shirts are on sale for $44 in the museum gift shop!

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