Born near Palo Verde, California, Rick Griffin grew up in the surfing culture of Southern California, a milieu which had a profound influence on his art. After high school, he worked on the staff of Surfer magazine and created the best-known surfing … Read more
Born near Palo Verde, California, Rick Griffin grew up in the surfing culture of Southern California, a milieu which had a profound influence on his art. After high school, he worked on the staff of Surfer magazine and created the best-known surfing cartoon character of the time, Murphy. In Los Angeles, Griffin met the Jook Savages, a group of artist-musicians, and took part in writer Ken Kesey's "Watts Acid Test." Griffin's first rock poster was for the Jook Savages, and when organizers for the "Human Be-In" saw the poster in San Francisco, they asked him to do a poster for their own event in January of 1967. Chet Helms of the Family Dog saw Griffin's work too, and asked him to design posters for the dance parties at the Avalon Ballroom. Griffin took his early influences from advertising and from the counterculture. Combining eclectic typefaces and decorative borders with brilliant colors, Griffin's compositions were complex without being illegible. He introduced diverse, often startling, objects into his posters, creating visual-verbal puns and playful references to pop culture. A perfectionist, Griffin often applied dozens of overlays and redrew lettering again and again until he was satisfied. In the early 1970s, Griffin became a born-again Christian and religious themes dominated his work. These later works are powerful and bizarre, concerned with ideas of mortality and continuity. Among his last posters were those produced for The Grateful Dead, which illustrate Griffin's vivid imagination and graphic skill. Griffin was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1991.