August 15th marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the most legendary rock concert of the Sixties. This poster has become equally famous as a memento of the weekend’s breathtaking musical lineup and its total freedom from violence. It perfectly expressed in one symbol – a white dove on a guitar – what Woodstock was about. Despite its lengthy text, the captivating poster and ultimately the event itself seemed to transcend all the turbulence of the era.
The poster is filled with a treasure trove of fun facts – the $18 3-day ticket price, the list of performers from Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Baez and many others, as well as “dozens of curious food and fruit combinations to experiment with.” Imagine if the organizers had allowed the Beatles to perform (they rejected John Lennon’s condition that Yoko Ono’s band be invited as well) and had Bob Dylan not backed out because of his sick son!
This is actually the second “official” Woodstock poster. It was created due to a licensing problem that required the concert to be relocated at the last moment from Walkill to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. The psychedelic style of the first poster was replaced by a more subdued and peaceful message so the event would not be banned again.
Skolnick was a successful art director on Madison Avenue who contracted this job on the side. His instincts were right on the mark. The poster was produced in 2 sizes – a bus and trolley size with a glossy finish on stiff paper, and a larger billboard size. Skolnick was “on print” to supervise their production, and can explain every unusual detail including why the bird has a black beak and why it is a 4 (rather then 3) color offset. The gallery is pleased to have originals in both sizes from the concert (not reproductions) for sale including the artist’s hand signed signature.
Ten year ago International Poster Gallery hosted a 40th Woodstock Anniversary party with Arnold in attendance. For the event, he created a limited edition poster that pays homage to the many turbulent themes and events of the late 1960s. It is also available and handsigned.
Our friends at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts are putting together a fantastic weekend celebrating the artistry and history of rock & roll posters, including a talk by Arnold Skolick and David Edward Byrd. Click here for more details and a schedule of events. And be sure to visit the International Poster Gallery website for more information on our large collection of 1960s rock & roll posters, including hand signed copies of Skolnick’s original Woodstock poster.
During these tough economic times, my mind invariably comes back to a 1929 Mather work incentive poster above my desk that puts things quickly in perspective. Worry Bags No Game is a terrific reminder that challenges need to be faced head-on, focusing on what you can do – and not on what you can’t.
Printed in Chicago between 1923 and 1929, the Mather work incentive poster series were designed to improve worker productivity and reduce turnover during a time of economic expansion and plentiful jobs. While the posters can be seen as workplace propaganda or camp Americana, they are perhaps most importantly viewed as a visual expression of the idealism and optimism of the rising nation. President Calvin Coolidge pithily summed up in two sentences the ideology of the era in his 1925 speech to the society of American newspaper editors: “The chief business of the American people is business … The chief ideal of the American people is idealism.”
Evoking the courage of hunters like Teddy Roosevelt, this poster inspired workers and managers alike – and seems as relevant today as in the Roaring Twenties.
If you are in Boston this summer, check out the Grand Circle Gallery, an exhibition space featuring a spectacular selection of African travel posters from International Poster Gallery’s collection.
Tracking the development of the African tourist poster since the 1890s, Travels through Africa is on display through Labor Day. The Gallery is free and open to the public, and is located in Fort Point Channel at 347 Congress St.
MoMA’s Architecture and Design Wing in New York City recently opened “Seeing Red: Hungarian Revolutionary Posters, 1919”, a mini-exhibition of rare avant-garde posters from the short-lived Hungarian Revolution of 1919. Well represented are the powerful work of Mihaly Biro, Sandor Bortynik and Bertalan Por. Hungarian patriots and devoted Socialists, all three were forced to leave their country after the Hungarian Revolution failed. Hungary’s loss was Modernism’s gain as all became active in Modernist developments elsewhere in Europe.
One of the beauties of the redesigned Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) building that opened 6 years ago is the expanded Architecture and Design wing on the 2nd floor, which now makes it possible to see some of the treasures that used to sit in storage almost all the time. Posters and furniture dominate the wing, and I try to visit every time I’m in New York. Selections from the permanent collection are included and rotated slowly, with mini-exhibitions changing more frequently. Currently there is a fine mini-selection of rare London Underground posters from the likes of McKnight Kauffer and Moholy Nagy.
By the way, one of our favorite books is The Modern Poster by Stuart Wrede, the catalog created for MoMA’s blockbuster 1988 exhibition on the finest examples of poster design from its birth in the late 19th century to the 1980s. Here’s a link on Amazon—it is available in paperback and hardcover at a modest price.