Wes Wilson Biography

Wes Wilson attended San Francisco State University and was working at Contact Printing, a small San Francisco press, when his career as a psychedelic-poster artist took off. At Contact, Wilson did the layout and design for handbills that eventually established him as a poster designer. When the Avalon Ballroom and Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium began to hold weekly dance concerts, Wilson was called upon to design the posters. He created psychedelic posters from February 1966 to May 1967, when disputes over money severed his connection with Graham. Wilson's early work was unique, but by mid-1967 so many artists had copied his style that he was replaced with barely a ripple in the production process. Wilson pioneered the psychedelic rock poster. Intended for a particular audience, "one that was tuned in to the psychedelic experience," his art, and especially the exaggerated freehand lettering, emerged from Wilson's own involvement with that experience and the psychedelic art of light shows. His influential lettering was derived from Vienna Secessionist lettering he discovered in a University of California exhibition catalogue, and his experimentation with the form led to his recognizable pulsating pictures with undulating letters. Wilson moved his family to a farm in the Ozarks, from where he published a poster art newsjournal from 1991-95 and exhibited his sixties posters at the Springfield Art Museum in the early '90s.