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December 18, 2013

David Edward Byrd: Poster Art Revisited

Written by  Esther J. Lee
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Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore East, 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore East, 1968 Esther Lee

Music to my Eyes

David Edward Byrd: Posters and Music Related Designs 1968-Now

Exhibition at Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art (RAFFMA)

Dec 7, 2013 through March 15, 2014

Now on view at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art, "Music to my Eyes, David Edward Byrd: Posters and Music-related Designs 1968-Now" is an exhibition on David Edward Byrd’s culturally significant poster art. As a genre, poster art is often associated with Art Nouveau and its later iteration in the psychedelic counterculture. David Edward Byrd’s own artistic contributions, which can be seen in this exhibition, include concert posters for legendary rock acts such as Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane.

Taking center stage at Music to my Eyes is David Edward Byrd’s "Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore East," 1968. Considered the 8th best rock poster of all time by Billboard Magazine, the piece combines the clean, flat, and symmetric design layout characteristic of Art Noveau, and the vibrant, warm tertiary colors and textured distortions of psychedelic art. It’s a classic example of the popular style in the late sixties and early seventies, associatively known as “Fillmore Posters.” As Byrd explains of his work, “At the time I was interested in crystal matrices and used a hex grid to create the hair as a mass of psychedelic photons in orange, yellow-green, magenta and black.”

Sharing the same space as "Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Fillmore East," 1968, is more music related artwork for Jefferson Airplane, The Who, and Lou Reed, while in the adjacent gallery are some of Byrd’s theater posters. One work in particular, "Follies," 1970, stands out; alongside it is the original graphite sketch and backbone of the design which provides a nice insight on Byrd’s design process. Depth of blues and brilliant oranges breathes life into the final version of the poster. The contrast of the intricate patterns and bold text on the upper half, with the block of gradient orange in the bottom half, add to its visually arresting allure.

The exhibition, a cross section of Byrd’s work, shows the scope of his practice. From theater and concert posters- to album covers and paintings, the viewer gets a sample of some of the many subjects he has tackled in his prolific 50 year career. At one point we arrive at a humorous painting, a Looney Tunes spoof on Picasso’s "Three Musicians," appropriately titled "Three Looney Musicians." Part of “The Masterpiece Series,” which David Edward Byrd describes as “pastiches of famous works of fine art featuring the Looney Tunes characters,” the painting is a surprising and humorous punctuation in the show.

Poster art is meant to entice a passerby on the street to contemplate its visual appeal and message. For this reason, viewing David Edward Byrd’s nostalgic and culturally significant artwork is an experience best done in person.

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