Influential Historical Artists

Wes Wilson

Artwork poster by Wes Wilson, showing the typography

Graphic Artist Wes Wilson was a pioneer of the psychedelic and created numerous poster artworks that remain popular today. These artworks are a response to what Wilson felt while at a rock festival in the 60’s, the thumping of the music, hordes of people, being drunk and being on drugs. Wilson said that he had tried LSD and had incorporated that into his own work by recreating the colours used in the image. After he started working for a company that allowed expressive freedom, he started playing around with increasingly creative patterns and styles to draw attention to the posters. His typography style was very unique and creative, with the fonts being wavy and distinctive at the same time. The colours he used were bright and contrasting, reflecting how he felt on LSD. The extreme contrast of the different colours and lines drew your attention to the pieces. Culturally, the period in the 60’s was characterised by the sudden explosion of Rock Music, thanks to the ‘British Invasion’, mostly the Beatles and other bands arriving on the scene. There was also a lot of Folk music around at the time, and they overlap in terms that Rock and Folk are both suitable audiences for a concert. In the 60’s there was no way to listen to them except on a live stage, so many people attended concerts when they toured in their area. Being in San Francisco, there were a lot of poster opportunities for the bands and touring acts that came to the area. This cultural phenomenon was of importance to Wes Wilson, who sought to convey the energy of a live show through his posters to encourage people to come. Wes’s work can be categorized as a ‘Psychedelic’ style, which many artists imitated afterwards, so he can be considered a pioneer of the ‘Psychedelic’ aesthetic of art.

More examples, showcasing Wilson’s typography usage

In the beginning, he started out as an assistant for a small printing company, that sold their works to small coffeehouse poetry and jazz scene in San Francisco. Wilson self-published his first poster, which included a Swastika within an American Flag motif, sending the message about the American involvement in Vietnam. He then designed a poster for the Trips Festival, which he then attended himself, loved the festival which then kickstarted his rock and concert poster designs that he was so known for. He was inspired by the style of Viennese Artist, Alfred Roller, that was similar to his typography style, and expanded upon it, creating even more daring typography designs. Wilson managed to create psychedelic pieces with interesting typography, clash of combining colours and a flow to it that captured your attention. His only goal was to explore the concert scene and the creative freedom that rock posters would allow him to express. Culturally, he is ingrained into the 60’s scene and his posters are seen as a cultural icon. He also put his style into the mainstream by doing work for notable brands such as Time Magazine, Life and Variety. It helped to establish a connection with rock music and festivals, and to today, has become history of the scene.

Alexander Rodchenko

An Alexander Rodchenko work depicting guns

Rodchenko was a Graphic Designer who was born in St Petersburg in Russia in 1891. He was part of the constructivist movement and was know for his politically aware works in many mediums. He studied in the Kazan School of Fine Arts and Architecture at Stroganov School of Applied Art. His photography works mostly revolve around capturing black and white photographs of people at unique and interesting angles and usually focused on the subject’s face. Russia in the 1910’s and 1920’s was a different time. Events such as the February Revolution in 1917, where over 1,00 people were killed, and the time Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate in the political turmoil. The revolution led to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFS) or simply Russian Soviet Republic.

One of the most famous examples of a Constructivist work, done by Rodchenko

Rodchenko was influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, who he even lived with for a short while. He was influenced by all of the great Russian masters before him or around his time, such as Vladimir Tatlin, who he was a pupil of, and Kazimir Malevich. Wassily was into abstract art, Vladimir in Avant-garde and Kazimir into a collection of styles. So Rodchenko was influenced by many Russian artists but didn’t follow their styles and went into a different concept altogether, and was eventually at the head of Constructivism when it started to gain traction. His experience with Russian revolutions, political strife and death led to a more personal view of human life and believed that his design work showed people new ways of seeing, that would in turn open up new ways of thinking. His experiments showed a simplification and deconstruction of forms, shapes and lines, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of the Soviet Union and its many iterations. His work reflected the close-mindedness and sameness the Soviet Union sought to achieve with their control. By exercising his design and art skills, Rodchenko sought to question the beliefs and tactics by using minimalist images, as well as up close and extreme close-ups of people’s faces. Its also why Rodchenko joined the Productivist movement for a time, which was a movement that incorporated artistic works with the daily life of people, by using household materials like rugs, textile patterns tables and chairs to express his design.

An example of Rodchenko’s unique photography work

From 1923 to 1925, he collaborated with an avant-garde poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky and illustrated some designs for the progressive Soviet writers of the time. However, it was through his photography that he gained the most recognition for his political messages, as he was picked up for a number of Soviet magazines and newspapers, and as a consequence, his photography was now all over the world. The late 1930’s is when the Communist Party started to change- In the way that Joseph Stalin was introduced as a key figure. Now that artistry was repressed, particularly free minded sections such as avant-garde and even constructivist was constricted of freedom of ideas as the Communist Party had other ‘officially sanctioned aesthetics’. Rodchenko himself was lucky to not perish at the hands of Stalin, as he had great purges that were mostly for the people that came to prominence at the time of the February Revolution, as Rodchenko did. His work was considered ‘Formalism’ and condemned by authorities of the Soviet Union. In the end, Rodchenko was known for his painting, photography and design skills, that elevated him further after experiencing the February Revolution and the deaths of people.