Posters of 1960 and 1970 History and Design.

By Shirley Ayers
Posters are found in public places all over the world and are visually striking. They are designed to immediately attract the attention of the public and encourage them to respond emotionally according to the advertisement ,to make them aware of a political viewpoint, and attend specific events or to purchase an advertised item.  Poster art was classed as lower quality art, but it was still an effective way of communicating a message to a wider audience. “Rock” posters were also important to the new culture of the time because they created a union between the music and the art world that would unite a larger number of people to support a cause. It gained momentum when artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichenstein acknowledged their new art form. The 1960s witnessed some of the most important cultural changes in the 20th century including the radical new approach to posters.
With these changes, people became aware of the new constrictions on the availability of goods. This was felt mostly among the younger generation as they did not place the same value on possessions that previous generations had.
The younger generation ignored many products of the industrial consumer society. It was believed the cost of industrial growth wasn’t a benefit and produced social unrest. Uncontrolled growth would cause repercussions in industrial development, affect nature, cause damage to the environment and the ecology. In the 1960s students rebelled against war, the establishment, industrial society, any way of life that put goods and profits before people and the environment also the dissatisfaction with contemporary values and the gap between the wealthy and the poor, which caused many uprisings across the USA and Europe.
Political and social causes were increasingly being championed with posters against the Vietnam War, atomic weapons, hunger and pollution. The Media, easy cheaper travel, cameras and reporters were bringing daily evidence to the public of life happenings that had never been seen live before.

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The young wanted to experience the way of living of the east and experiment with their culture, religion, drugs, meditation, yoga, and fashion Mayo Fashion and jackets were popular.

The 1970s brought a greater cultural and social separation between the west and the east, as the cold war was ceasing and Russia was now trading with the USA. Cars and televisions became common in the more advanced countries.
“Jack Tworkov, a prominent artist from the fifties and abstract expressionist movement, described how there was a sensibility of the sixties: the emphasis on thingness. Similarly, artists and viewers were, on a quest for the real, for something tangible to hang on.”
Among the many posters that could be mentioned, Robert Wesley Wilson’s posters were controversial. He showed the sensual side of women, and how it should be acceptable to be a sexual person. Before the sixties, it was considered normal for woman to suppress these natural urges, because it wasn’t considered correct behaviour. In his posters, Wilson appeared to show women negatively, in his posters by making them sex objects, but in reality, he was trying to reflect how women were questioning their existence in society. The culture became radical with its open use of drugs and he went on to produce psychedelic posters. Wilson experimented with drugs, and most of his posters had suggestions of him being in a hallucinogenic state when they were created. Wes Wilson’s psychedelic style soon became very well-known that more artists were acknowledging the trend. Wilson was a designer of psychedelic posters, he invented a style that is now associated with the peace movement, psychedelic era, and the 1960s. Around 1966, he was known for inventing and popularizing a psychedelic font that made the letters look like they were moving or melting.

Wes Wilson.

Bridget Riley. “Blaze 1964”
Andy Warhol was the most famous and outspoken of artists during the 1960s. He was a printmaker, artist and musician. He was also a prominent Pop Art artist, famous for his silk screen process. This sped up the process of making art because the screen acted as a stencil to make many copies quickly and identically. He was able to take mundane, everyday objects and make a bold statement. His art was radical because of his mechanical, impersonal technique of utilizing silk-screens.

 Instead of the personal relationship between the artist and his individual brushstrokes on a canvas, Warhol relied on a mechanism to do the majority of the work for him. This quality that defined sixties art was referred to as cold art, meaning a detachment of the artists feelings when creating art. These artists distinguished themselves from previous artists. Instead of a direct image painted or drawn as in the fifties, this art looked cool, clean and mechanistic. This new art of stain colour field or hard edge abstract, Pop Art, Realism and Photo-Realism was an exciting progression for the artists. The inspiration for this new art did not come from the artists life experiences or dreams but was more clinical.

  Warhol excelled at this better than other artists of that time with the aid of his silk-screen technique. By making his process more efficient, he was able to reach his audience quickly. Still considered a fine art, because it liaised between the low and high culture of art, Pop Art, in general, remained popular but was not considered high culture. This kind of art was perfect for depicting social injustices in paintings. Many of Warhol’s prints formed a scrutiny regarding consumerism, but he also made prints that raised awareness of the civil rights movement. His popular prints were centred on the everyday objects that normally would not be considered art or even beautiful. However, this also defined art of the sixties. Their art represented the mass produced, common objects previously ignored. Andy Warhol became the most famous American Pop Art artist when he used an industrial silkscreen process to paint commercial objects such as Campbell’s soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles, and for portraying Liz Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe. Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein used parts of sign painting, commercial art and literary imagery to create their new style. They became famous for erasing the boundaries between popular and high culture.

Roy Lichenstein Roy Lichtenstein became a household name for the way he used stencil-like dots, thick lines and bold colours, to represent the comic book style. His paintings were the size of billboards. He tried to make his hand made art look like it was machine made.
Examples of Chwast’s conflict-related work go back as far as 1958, to the Push Pin Graphic entitled “Peace and War.” Other items in the Push Pin Graphic series include 1963’s “War Yes, Sex No,” and 1979’s “Food and Violence.” Chwast has created several famed anti-war posters since then, and his politically minded work continues to this day, with his ongoing publication.

Push Pin Graphic entitled
 “Peace and War.”
Americans in the 1960s and 70s addressed civil rights, the Vietnam War, nuclear growth, drug use, sexual freedom and nonconformity. Many sought spiritual experiences through Eastern Mysticism and psychedelic drugs. The powerful graphic designs used by the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, in particular the Black Panthers, were closely tied to minor political groups of earlier decades. They used the posters and the press with a lot of effectiveness to get their message across. The faces of leading figures, often depicted with weapons and surrounded by slogans, became instantly recognizable throughout America and calls for action reached the public on posters. Long before electronic technology, graphic artists used modernist art to inform communities, stir emotions and plea for justice. They questioned the public about what was important to them civil rights, women’s and the gay rights movements and equality for all citizens. The anti-Vietnam War Environmentalists questioned the economic growth which could result in the destruction of the planet.

The internationally recognized symbol for peace was originally designed for the British Nuclear disarmament movement by Gerald Holtom in 1958.

A unique art form found expression in band posters and album covers. 1967 was the peak year for psychedelic rock.
Victor Moscoso was a formally trained graphic designer. Comic books were his inspiration, as well as Victorian images, Art Nouveau, and Pop Art. He used the concept of vibrating colours to create the ‘psychedelic’ effect which was achieved by taking colours from the opposite end of the colour wheel, each one having equal dark to light and brightness.

Victor Moscoso The Influence of Op Art & Pop Art, which is a style of abstraction that relies on geometric shapes. This art often featured patterns, grids, curving affects and diminishing objects, lines and colour contrasts, to create optical illusions for the viewer.
Popular in the 1960s, The Op Art movement was organised by artists who experimented in various perceptual effects. Pop Art made its way to the United States in the 1960s influenced by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

“Pop” was a term applied to popular culture. It became a point of the Pop Art movement to narrow the boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ popular culture. Although started in Britain, Pop Art was one of the United States’ major artistic movements of the 20th century. The Americans took up the consumerist cause with much conviction and became the pioneers of the movement. “Pop Art and Pop Culture refer to the products of the mass media evolving in the late 1950s and 60s and also to the works of art that draw upon popular culture: packaging, television, advertisements, comic books, and the cinema. Pop Art attempted to break down the barriers between high art and contemporary culture.”
An Australian, a freelance poster designer, Harry Rogers designed the Qantas logo font in the mid1960s and devised many different poster series promoting Qantas from the 1950s through to the 1970s. He created a different ‘look’ for each series using new techniques, cut paper and collage, geometric shapes, heroic animated animal portraits, lively watercolour illustrations and the unusual oil painting on glass technique used on the 1970s series which included the Sydney Opera House.

Qantas Australia poster designed by Harry Rogers around 1973 2007/142/7. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Harry designed a font for Qantas called ‘Cyclone’. It was a complete alpha-numeric and symbolic font. Qantas commissioned Letraset to make full-sheets of these as rub-down letters, numbers and symbols which were used in the 1970-80s, as it would not be until the 1990s that computers were used for graphic design.

662 mm x 1011 mm ‘Hong Kong’, colour lithograph on paper, designed by Harry Rogers for Qantas.

The use of posters to promote airlines remains an integral part of their advertising campaigns despite recent electronic media. This poster designed by Harry Rogers was one of a series commissioned by Qantas for its campaign promotion.
He devised many different and unusual techniques for each separate poster series; incorporating geometrics, watercolours, collage work and oils. Rogers’ designs were innovative, using printing, typesetting and photo technology. The posters used bold, readily identifiable images and vivid colours that were typical of the period.

An economic boom after World War Two brought about an increase in birth-rates. This new generation was labelled the “Baby Boomers’, who questioned America’s materialism and conservative cultural and political status. During the 1960s they were seeking to create an equal society free from discrimination. The Feminist movement and the Black movement were a result of this evolution. The posters associated with rebellion are pictorial documents capable of transmitting “solidarity,” “sisterhood” or “peace” all over the world. Political posters were not accepted as a cultural form until the mid-1960s, as the Cold War in the1950s made it too dangerous to produce political content for public spaces. It was not until the rock and counterculture posters exploded that the public then wanted political posters displayed openly on store windows and church doors. These bright, quickly produced images showed the anger of the underclass and general public discontent.
Posters were made by designers who wanted their works to promote political agendas and not just as a pretty picture on the wall. These artists often remained unknown. The sizes of posters were varied and information regarding this statistic is hard to obtain. Many of the images remembered on the posters of the 1960s and 1970s have a style and urgency which because of the deep historical roots of the past had continued to influence. They were eventually replaced by social media, including graffiti and ultimately the internet.  Peter Max, another artist who was well known for his graphic design abstract, psychedelic advertising and graphics, used painting and graphics to raise awareness on the environmental and humanitarian issues. The previous artists mentioned were among many that were caught up in the culture wars that began in the sixties, about drugs, military incursions into foreign countries, sex and human rights, and the environment, issues which are still being fought. All the issues are current and their values have survived to be a part of our everyday lives.

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