At the end of 1965, the psychedelic movement started to spring up in San Francisco with bands such as The Charlatans, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Grateful Dead. At the same time, a parallel visual art aesthetic emerged to advertise the flood of rock concerts under the psychedelic umbrella. The artists included Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, the duo Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse, and Victor Moscoso (born 1936). Each carved out an individual style in the wave that washed over the “youth culture.”
Moscoso went to Yale University and trained under Josef Albers, but when he moved to San Francisco he was caught in the vortex that had altered conventional art. Immediately he stopped painting in order to design posters for psychedelic events with his own company, Neon Rose. For the next eight months leading up to the Summer of Love, he produced two or three posters a week for rock venues such as The Avalon Ballroom and The Matrix. He created an unprecedented visual language noted for almost illegible lettering, eye-catching images and aggressive color contrasts that invaded the sanctity of modern graphic design.
“Moscoso’s oeuvre is heavily linked to psychedelia, but that doesn’t mean his work has only been confined to the music world,” writes David Carballal, curator of Moscoso Cosmos: The Visual Universe of Victor Moscoso, featuring 60 posters, album covers and pages from his co-creation, ZAP comics. “His posters have promoted radio stations, clothing shops, cosmetics firms, filmmakers, poetry recitals, plays, public campaigns and, of course, his own exhibitions. They all share one quality: After fulfilling their passing advertising purpose, they remain as unforgettable images with a world of possible interpretations. In other words, they enter the art world under their own power.”
Moscoso’s work will be exhibited for the first time in decades at the Instituto Cervantes in New York City from Dec. 7–Feb. 24. A 224-page color catalog will be available, and Moscoso will be at the opening in person to discuss his work.