Meet the 1960s artist who created album covers for The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and more
John Van Hamersveld designed the movie poster for Endless Summer in 1964, but that was just the beginning.
If you loved listening to the mind-bending music of the Magical Mystery Tour (1967) by the Beatles, Exile on Main Street (1972) by the Rolling Stones, or Skeletons from the Closet (1974) by the Grateful Dead, you were also in the presence of Van Hamersveld’s visual counterculture creations.
Those original works — and more — from the genre’s most influential artist are now on display at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s exhibit The Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hamersveld, running through October 20, 2019.
For more than five decades, multidisciplinary artist John Van Hamersveld has created instantly recognizable works of graphic design. Era of Cool will include a large selection of Van Hamerseveld’s album covers, poster designs, drawings, murals, photographs, and paintings.
His psychedelic patterns and vivacious color schemes perfectly captured the vibes of musicians of the era. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan — you name it. Van Hamersveld’s aesthetic defined the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Growing up in Palos Verdes, California, Van Hamersveld began his colorful career entrenched in the vibrant L.A. art scene.
In 1963, while enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Van Hamersveld worked on creating a poster for the upcoming release of the international surfing documentary, The Endless Summer.
After taking forgettable photographs of the film’s star surfers standing around a California beach holding their boards, Van Hamersveld decided to turn up the contrast and set their abstract black silhouettes against a brilliant day-glo setting sun. It was a technique he had recently learned in college.
The resulting orange and pink poster arguably became just as famous as the acclaimed surfing documentary it advertised.
But again, that was just the beginning.
Endless Summer opened doors — immediately. Van Hamersveld showed the poster to the art services vice president at Capitol Records.
“And just like that, I had a job as the personal art director for Brown Meggs, the VP of Capitol Records Distribution Company, who had signed the Beatles,” recalled Van Hamersveld. “He wouldn’t let me turn him down.”
In 1967 when Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, died, Van Hamersveld was given the Magical Mystery Tour album to work on.
From there came other offers from other bands clamoring for his cool, psychedelic style: The Rolling Stones, then Keith Richards, The Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, Blondie.
“You know, it was quite an adventure, the record business,” said Van Hamersveld.
For the better part of six decades, Van Hamersveld hasn’t stopped creating art. In 2015, the Southern California-based artist unveiled a recent work — a gentrification project requiring the painting of a mural on a 510-foot, 360-degree rusted-out water tower near El Segundo, California.
“We are excited to open Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hamersveld,” said Richard M. Scaife Director and CEO Anne Kraybill. “We invite visitors to experience the eye-pleasing alchemy created when pop culture, music, and visual art converge.”
Related upcoming events:
2nd Annual Greensburg MusicFest, presented by The Westmoreland Cultural Trust
Fri., Sept. 13, 6-8 p.m.
Stop by the Museum and listen to live music outside and some of your favorite records inside. In collaboration with Rabbit Hole Records, enjoy various genre listening stations inspired by John Van Hamersveld album covers, discuss the differences between vinyl and digital recordings, and make a playlist of your own. Also, check out our Robert Shaw Gallery to view the exhibition A Musical Number. FREE
In Conversation with John Van Hamersveld
Wed., Oct. 2, 7–8:30 p.m.
Join Chief Curator Barbara Jones as she talks with graphic artist, designer, photographer, professor and author John Van Hamersveld. Learn the story behind his iconic, career launching “Endless Summer” poster and hear more about the numerous album covers and posters he has designed for bands such as the Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Blondie and the Rolling Stones. Plus, learn about the numerous mural and public art projects he continues to do today. $8 members / $10 non-members
BIG ART PARTY. Peace. Love. Art.
Sat., Oct. 5, 7:30-11 p.m.
Don’t be square! Break out those vintage vibes and join us for one groovy night celebrating the Era of Cool with music by Them Vibes and our special guest, John Van Hamersveld! The evening includes a variety of bites and cash bar. Proceeds from this event will support The Westmoreland’s exhibition and education programs. Dress Attire: Ratted-up Beehives and Psychedelic Threads (aka Fun Cocktail Attire). $60 members / $75 non-members