If you walk past the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art location in downtown Altoona in the next few months, be prepared to do a double take.
There are some famous faces staring back at you.
Through April 28, SAMA-Altoona is showing the exhibit "What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been: Selections from the Mark del Costello Poster Collection," which features some of the most iconic rock posters and lithographs of the 1960s and '70s. Among the musicians on prominent display are famous images of David Bowie, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Clash and the Grateful Dead.
Mirror photo by Keith Frederick
A “Beatles wall”?is displayed at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona’s exhibit “What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been: Selections from the Mark del Costello Poster Collection.”
"It's one of our core collections and we're trying to get it out more," said SAMA Curator for Visual Arts Scott Dimond.
This same exhibit was on display last winter at SAMA-Johnstown and often goes out as a touring exhibition. The posters have been on display at every SAMA location in the past, most recently in Altoona in 2006.
The rock poster collection was given to SAMA in the 1980s by del Costello, a St. Francis University graduate (SAMA's main location is on the Loretto school's campus). Del Costello is a photographer and former assistant to film director Martin Scorcese, who today teaches at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
If you go
What: "What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been: Selections from the Mark del Costello Poster Collection"
When: Through April 28
Where: The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Altoona, the Brett Building, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona
Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday
Additional event: A Lunch a l'Art will be held at noon Feb. 9 (Thursday) at SAMA-Altoona. Cost is $13 per person or $12 for SAMA members. It includes lunch and a lecture. For reservations or more information, call 946-4464.
Though the collection is extensive, the current selection of posters on display focuses just on works from the 1960s and '70s, the so-called golden age of rock posters. The Altoona exhibit welcomes guests with a front room filled with familiar works - a wall full of Beatles images, a poster version of Bowie's famed "Alladin Sane" album cover, the Grateful Dead posters that introduced the band's roses and skeletons motif.
There's even a small, dark room walled off and separated from the rest of the exhibit by a black curtain and strings of beads. Here's where SAMA-Altoona site coordinator Barbara Hollander has placed some examples of that beloved relic of the 1960s, the black light poster.
"It pretty much looks just like an old '60s bedroom, with the black light and some incense there," Hollander said. "We're just having a bit of fun with this show."
But the posters lit up by the black lights aren't merely the dollar store tigers and marijuana leaves you might picture. These are works of art, like the 1966 Milton Glaser poster of Bob Dylan, featuring the legend in shadowy profile with his curly hair flying away in psychedelic swaths of color.
"I think what people forget is that these posters, first and foremost, were art," Hollander said. "Someone designed them, someone came up with the concept."
The Glaser poster was originally packaged with Dylan's 1967 "Greatest Hits" album, as many of the posters in the exhibit were packaged. Though the posters surely were hung in countless teenagers' bedrooms over the years, not as many survived until today. Including one owned by Hollander herself.
"A lot of these posters came in albums, like the Dylan one," she explained. "You look at the creases in it and you see it's the size of [an album]."
Then she added, a bit wistfully: "At one time, I had that. I don't know where it is, but I had it. And it's great to see it again."
Many of the posters in the del Costello collection are actual advertisements which were hung around town to promote big concerts at legendary venues like San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium and Avalon Ballroom and New York's CBGB.
"We have a lot of the posters from San Francisco that were advertising the actual concerts," Hollander said. "They take an extra minute to really appreciate, but when you take a look at the artwork, it was very intricate.
"You just don't see that now. It's a thing of the past."
Part of what makes these images so memorable, nearly 50 years after they were created, are the established artists who created them. Glaser, for example, is a graphic designer and co-founder of New York Magazine best known for creating the "I Love New York" logo and the classic DC Comics logo, which lasted for nearly 30 years.
Other noted artists with works in the exhibit include:
n Peter Max - a world famous artist who is one of the most influential psychedelic artists. He has been commissioned to create U.S. stamps and official artwork for events like the Grammy Awards, The Super Bowl and more;
n Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley - these frequent collaborators created the skeleton crowned with roses that became The Grateful Dead trademark, and were go-to artists for psychedelic concert posters in the 1960s;
n Victor Moscoso - a Spanish artist who helped pioneer the psychedelic photo collage rock posters of the 1960s. He was also one of the artists on Robert Crumb's famous Zap Comix.
The pedigreed artists give the posters a legitimacy in the art world that Hollander pointed out just wouldn't happen now.
"When you got to Peter Max and the Beatles, now you had a world-famous artist - who's selling real artwork - who took the time to do a Beatles cover," she said. "I don't see it happening now. The cover of an album just isn't as meaningful. You want it to be, but it's not."
The familiar names and faces, and nostalgia for the music and atmosphere of the era, should bring in a number of visitors, SAMA officials say.
"Things like this have proven popular," Dimond said. "Any time you can do a crossover into other people's interests [it brings people in]."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.