Rick Griffin: The Flying Eyeball,

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Lot 87
Rick Griffin: The Flying Eyeball,
US$ 250,000 - 350,000
£ 190,000 - 270,000

Lot Details
Rick Griffin: The Flying Eyeball,
acrylic on canvas, signed, a large-scale version of the iconic poster design for the concerts by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers and Albert King at the Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland, San Francisco, February 1968, (BG 105), 47 x 70½in


  • Forty years ago Rick Griffin produced his epic poster masterpiece of symbolic iconography, 'The Flying Eyeball', in a burst of inspiration. Almost twenty years later he revisited his creation, resizing it to heroic proportions and executing it in paint on canvas. This was a medium he loved, but wasn't known for back in the 60s, and was one which afforded him the chance to exercise his color sense and take a fresh look at what had become his most highly-regarded design. The image has arguably become the most recognizable and evocative image of the psychedelic 60s, being to Psychedelic Art what Warhol's soup tin is to Pop Art - an instant identifier for the age of Acid Rock.

    The painting was produced in 1987 for a project with a group of Rick's fellow poster artists which included Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, all of whom had made their reputation from the San Francisco psychedelic concert posters of the 60s. Their organization and cause, known as 'A.R.T.' (Artists Rights Today), was holding a benefit rock concert at the Fillmore Auditorium to raise both awareness and money for legal expenses in their struggle to regain the rights to their famous poster designs. These posters - which by the 1980s were deemed to be significant and influential cultural contributions and which provoked a dynamic renaissance in graphics - were originally created as 'works for hire', theoretically excluding them from any future interests. In George Mead's San Francisco W.E.T. Studios, each of the five artists painted a huge recreation of a favorite or signature piece to be hung in the Auditorium during the benefit concert by Jerry Garcia and others. Rick's piece, also known as 'The Flying Eye', commanded much attention from its place on the wall of the original Fillmore during that sold-out evening. After the event, the painting took pride of place in Rick's Santa Ana home.

    The Winged Eye symbol has its origins in antiquity, appearing in the art of the Egyptians and Assyrians. Rick particularly venerated the late 1950s' version, that of famed lowbrow artist Von Dutch, whose interpretation resonated with the roots of hot-rod culture, so central to Rick's Southern California upbringing. Von's Flying Eye was stylistically informed by traditional American tattooing and car culture and he may also have been exposed to this image as nose art on WWII USAAF airplanes, an art form that influenced decorative automobile art in the post-war period. Rick would also have been aware of the esoteric traditions and origins of the Eye In The Sky, aka The Sun Disc or God's Eye, the all-seeing eye that burns through the clouds of Illusion. As a visual pun it also represents the self (the 'I'), as well as the personal power that comes with spiritual awareness. With added wings, it evokes the effect that LSD had on the visual field, part of the expanded state of consciousness that many were experiencing at that time.

    In 1968, when psychedelic posters were an integral part of the Haight-Ashbury scene, The Flying Eyeball and other designs like it were becoming a pervasive influence. Apart from being posted around San Francisco's Bay Area in record stores, bookshops and hip boutiques they circulated nationally, and even internationally, becoming in a sense ambassadors of the counter-culture movement. Admired for their startling effect and challenging lettering, these posters were eagerly collected. Everybody - the fans, the musicians and the other poster artists - could see that Rick had surpassed himself with this poster and that a barrier of sorts had been broken. The original poster was reprinted before the year was out to satisfy commercial demand. It became synonymous with the psychedelic scene, being reproduced on clothing, products, books and magazines, not to mention in print editions and numerous reprints. These posters, and the music they announced, were a huge cultural influence and a large part of the attraction for young people to drop out and migrate to the Haight. Art directors and design professionals succumbed to the psychedelic allure as well and the result stylistically defines the mid-60s to mid-70s in Western culture, with the years 1968-70 generally regarded as a zenith for psychedelia. Graphics, art, design, music, movies, clothing, all were colored by it until the scene imploded. However, the shock-waves of the movement were felt over the subsequent years.

    Naturally, Rick was quite aware of Jimi Hendrix, the supreme virtuoso of psychedelic rock, when he was commissioned to design this poster but it was a tall order to visually 'jam' with the Experience. At that time the posters were not just advertisements to sell tickets, they were considered a platform for expression as well. In the case of BG 105, Rick created what might be seen as a wake-up call to a reality that exists beyond the humdrum existence of so-called normality and one that Rick, Jimi and other visionaries could give you a taste of. If you went to the event this poster was advertising, you could well surmise you were indeed in for an intense experience.

Saleroom notices

  • This lot is not signed.
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