The man, the myth and the legend behind countless psychedelic rock posters, Wes Wilson, has died at age 82.
Wilson’s cause of death is not yet disclosed, but according to The San Francisco Chronicle, he died peacefully in his home Friday, Jan. 24, in Aurora, Mo.
Born Robert Wesley Wilson in Sacramento, Calif., on July 15, 1937, Wilson’s trippy artistic style started off on handbills he created for Bill Graham for small concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, but his art gained a lot of popularity and over the years, his talent and style landed him as one of the “big five” artists in Haight Ashbury during the 1960s hippie counterculture era.
Wilson was a college dropout who left his day job to go live in a hotel and start a printing company to end up making posters for things like the Merry Prankster Acid Tests. Sounds like a parent’s worst nightmare.
However, the risks paid off when some of Wilson’s biggest successes were designing iconic posters for the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, as well as The Beatles’ final concert poster, and being featured in big-time magazines like Time, Life and Variety.
His legacy and recognition will continue to live on, as his work is featured in the Smithsonian and the Modern Museum of Art in New York. He also earned an award in 1968 from The National Endowment for the Arts for his “contributions to American art.”
Even though starting out, Wilson’s work was made to advertise concerts, his posters have become collectors items, and many other artists have gained inspiration from his style. Wilson’s trademark of swirly, trippy moving letters can be found anywhere from a college-aged stoner’s dorm room wall to any rock ‘n’ roll dad’s memorabilia collection.
Wilson is survived by his wife, children and 10 grandchildren. You can shop a collection of his work over on Paste’s sister site, Wolfgang’s.