Headshop posters – sometimes known as blacklight posters – weren’t advertising a rock concert but were part of the explosion of the poster market in the late 1960s when teenagers had largely won the war for their bedroom walls and found affordable “expendable art” to fill them with.
These inexpensive posters reflected the lifestyle of the Sixties whether reflecting the world of television and movies with giant black and white blow-ups of movie and music stars – referred to as “personality posters,” - or the psychedelic brethren of the posters used to advertise rock concerts in San Francisco.
Headshops and well-known poster shops included the Postermat in San Francisco, the Print Mint in Berkeley, the Mole Hole in Chicago, the Infinite Poster and the Intergalactic Trading Post and Underground Uplift Unlimited in New York, the Kazoo in Los Angeles, George’s Folly and Truc in Boston, Head Shop South in Coconut Grove, Florida, the Emporium in Miami Beach, to shops in college towns and semi-college towns all over the Midwest. And of course, there was the iconic Spencer Gifts, which opened its first retail store in 1963 and was operating 450 locations when they sold to MCA just 4 years later, in 1967.
Posters, as an early form of affordable art and they were treated as such, put up with thumbtacks and tape and moved around getting pretty beat up and in most cases thrown away. Hey, they were expendable! 1968’s John Lennon poster by Richard Avedon, got ripped down and replaced with a Led Zeppelin poster 3 years later.
The Bahr Gallery has recently been expanding to find and offer only the most interesting and mind-blowing of these posters, along with the posters that advertised health food stores, clothing stores, headshops themselves and other expressions of the Hippie Ethos, or lifestyle.
Finding headshop posters like these in good condition is increasingly difficult. They’ve rotted in attics, Mom threw them away or they were just battered and beaten to the point where they weren’t worth keeping. Many of the posters were printed on very thin paper and so for those we get them backed with linen to protect them.
“Suddenly, posters are the national hang-up. They serve as low-cost paintings, do-it-yourself wallpaper, comic Valentines or propaganda for such things as Batman and rye bread. Posters is every dimension and description are being plastered across the U.S. More than a million a week are gobbled up by avid visual maniacs who apparently abhor a void….Whatever else a poster may be intended to put across, in an age mad for images, it is expendable art that is within everyone’s financial means” - “The Great Poster Wave,” Life Magazine September 1, 1967