Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin created this piece as a cover for the Grateful Dead’s album Aoxomoxoa, which came out in 1969, the same year as the famous Woodstock music festival. It was a very important and influential piece in the psychedelic art movement, inspiring generations to come. This album cover is even listed in the Rolling Stone as the 8th greatest album cover of all time. During the time this was created and even today the Grateful Dead are considered the psychedelic band. They practically defined the generation, along with famous acid lovers Ken Kesey, Owsley Stanley and Timothy Leary. The Grateful Dead’s “Steal Your Face” logo and bear symbol are prolific icons, especially in modern times where you can find a Dead shirt at almost any retail company store. This piece is very representative of Griffin’s style with its hard-to-read, detailed 3D-looking lettering, skulls, beetle, and comic style illustrations. There’s actually a theory about the title lettering, saying it’s an ambigram for “we ate the acid,” which was probably a purposefully hidden item since the drug was made illegal in 1966. It also features symbols of life and death: a phallic skull and crossbones holding egg-like orbs or scrotum and inseminating the sun-egg, trees with wombs, underground fetus plants, more eggs in the ground, mushrooms/penises, sperm (in the sun). It also has symbols of opposites–life and death, the sun and the earth.It incorporates ancient Egyptian art with the scarab beetle at the bottom in the middle of the title and the winged disc of the sun god Ra at the top. The skeleton’s bones then descend into the scarab beetle, a visual metaphor for the cycle of nourishment and refuse.  Griffin actually came up with the name of the album too, which doesn’t mean anything, but was created because he liked palindromes. The entire image itself, besides the band’s name, appears to be a visual palindrome as well–the left and right sides mirror each other. In addition, the sky can be interpreted as an eye with the sun as the pupil. This record sleeve cover art was creating using Lithographic printing. Personally I think it’s a really interesting cover because you might not notice all the symbolism at first, and it’s pretty funny, especially since it’s so similar to Griffin’s work in Man From Utopia.

Work from Man From Utopia