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Byrd on a flier

July 08, 2011|By Terri Martin
  • The Lou Reed, Sally Can't Dance 1975 vinyl album cover. on display at the Brand Library Art Galleries on Wedneday, June 22, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
The Lou Reed, Sally Can't Dance 1975 vinyl album…

Haight-Ashbury, rock ’n’ roll and mind-altering drugs gave rise to an unusual burst of creativity that married type designs, images and explosive color on esoteric psychedelic posters. Artists embedded in the San Francisco hippie culture designed pulsating patterns and animated text to promote integrated music, free love and LSD.

David Edward Byrd jumped into this scene in Manhattan around 1968 and was catalyzed by the West Coast movement. He designed graphic art posters for rock ’n’ roll icons and events, Broadway plays, movies and TV. He shadowed the entertainment industry for decades as its link to the public with images that reached out and grabbed the viewer by the eyeballs to drag them in and ignite imaginations. From Jimi Hendrix to Harry Potter, the Brand Library Gallery in Glendale has assembled a phenomenal retrospective of Byrd’s projects that serve as a visual journal of a very interesting and effective life.

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Byrd was born in Tennessee, raised in Miami and educated at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He moved to New York in 1968 and to Los Angeles in 1981. The exhibition at the Brand celebrates 40 years of Byrd’s artistic production and 70 years of life, from the time that he worked with Prisma pencil and airbrush to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

His influences were many. Stylized posters can be attributed to Japanese woodblock prints, Gustav Klimt’s patterned paintings and Toulouse Lautrec’s café posters, and Haight-Ashbury citizen Wes Wilson can probably be credited for catapulting psychedelic poster art. Yet Byrd’s style is unique.

One of the first major patrons for this art form was music promoter Bill Graham, who hired Wilson to design posters for shows at his Fillmore West auditorium. In 1968 disputes over money — and the fact that Wilson’s poster text became so stylized that it was not legible — opened a door for young Byrd, who picked up the slack and launched his own career.

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