Rick Griffin

Rick (Richard Alden) Griffin

(American, Los Angeles, CA 1944 – Santa Rosa, CA 1991)

Drawing on influences as diverse as Native American culture, advertising, and the California surf scene, Rick Griffin produced psychedelic poster art, album covers, and logos of such visual impact that they are among the primary images associated with Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and other legendary performers.

Attending Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles in 1964, Griffinbefriended the Jook Savages, a bohemian art/jugband group recently arrived from Minnesota. Later he designed the poster for their 1966 exhibition at The Psychedelic Shop in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, which led to an invitation to design a poster for the Human Be-In, a 1967 festival integrating the Berkeley radicals, the Beat scene of San Francisco’s North Beach, and hippies from all over the country.

Early in 1967, Griffin was commissioned to design the logo for a new magazine called Rolling Stone, and between 1967 and 1968, Chet Helms and Bill Graham both recruited Griffin to create over two dozen concert posters. In the early 1970s, Griffinbecame a born-again Christian; his later works are focused on ideas of mortality and continuity. Griffin was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1991.

Paul Olsen, a native Northern Californian who grew up on the Haight and actually attended the show in question, described the poster of the Flying Eyeball featuring Hendrix this way.

“This is the Jimi Hendrix of Fillmore Psychedelic Posterdom...the Big Kahuna, the Brass Ring, the King of the World. It doesn't get any better than this...the justifiably famous "Flying Eyeball" poster by Rick Griffin,” Olsen said. “When you own this, you own THE poster, mama. THE poster! There are three Avalon Griffin posters which are in this league...but at the end of the day, this is THE ONE. This is Pure Stuff, right from the center of Griffin's incredible imagination and artistic skill. His Masterpiece of Masterpieces.”

Olsen also told the story of the artist, Rick Griffin, from his vew.

“Rick worked with the legendary Von Dutch (Keith Howard), and Big Daddy Roth down in LA while he was involved in the surfing/hot rod culture down there,” Olsen said. The flying eyeball is actually Von Dutch's logo, and this design is a homage (or, as Funky Jack laughingly insists, a rip-off) to him. I prefer to be less cynical...but Jack has a point.”

The other Rick Griffin poster in the show was eventually used for the cover art on the Grateful Dead’s album titled, “Aoxomoxoa.” Live-Grateful-Dead-Music.com describes the album as one of Rick Griffin’s finest Grateful Dead album covers and writes.

“The painting was originally created as rock poster art advertising the Dead at the Avalon Ballroom in January '69,” They wrote on their blog. “It's one the greatest and most highly sought after psychedelic posters ever. The band liked the poster so much that they asked Griffin to rework it for the cover of their third album. The colorful cover is ripe with many of his favorite images. There are potent fertility symbols everywhere you look. The sun at the center looks like an egg being attacked by sperm. There's the embryo, womb and fetus. You can see sprouting seeds and some very phallic looking mushrooms. There are Egyptian religious figures such as the scarab and the winged solar disk. Also present is a skull and crossbones which adds to the theme of death and rebirth.”

Here is a great short documentary on Rick Griffin. Learn about the artist himself and how the early 1960s California surfing culture spread to rock and roll.