Wes Wilson made psychedelic posters for rock shows by the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison and Jefferson Airplane among others

By Nicholas Rice
January 31, 2020 01:15 PM
Wes Wilson
Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty

Iconic psychedelic poster designer Wes Wilson, who is best known for his rock show posters that included vibrant colors and hard-to-read, melting letters, died on Jan. 24 at the age of 82, the New York Times reports.

Wilson’s son, Jason, confirmed that he died at his Leanne, Missouri home, though a cause of death has not been revealed.

Wilson designed posters for artists such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Van Morrison among others, and his distinctive style has become closely associated with the ’60s era.

Wes Wilson/Facebook

Born Robert Wesley Wilson in July 1937, Wilson moved to San Francisco after serving in the Army National Guard where he began creating layouts and designs in the mid-’60s. His most notable posters were commissioned by concert promoter Bill Graham, who produced shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, as well as Chet Helms of the Avalon Ballroom.

His unique designs — which are collectors’ items today — were made with the intent to pull the viewer’s attention in to what was being advertised.

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Speaking with Darrin Alfred, the curator of architecture and design at the Denver Art Museum, who curated a 2009 exhibition there called “The Psychedelic Experience,” that included Wilson’s work, Graham is said to have stated, “Well, it’s nice, but I can’t read it,” while looking at one of Wilson’s pieces. Wilson then responded, “Yeah, and that’s why people are gonna stop and look at it.”

In addition to his son Jason, who is from his second marriage, Wilson is survived by his wife, Eva (Bessie) Wilson; three children from his first marriage, Karen Borgfeldt, Shirryl Bayless and Kelly Wiedman; two other children from his second marriage, Colin Wilson and Theanna Teodorovic; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

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