Bob Fried

Painter, printmaker and sculptor Robert, or Bob, Fried is most well known for the psychedelic rock concert posters he created for many popular bands during San Francisco’s “Summer of Love”. He created posters and handbills for live music concerts, club dates and legendary events. He became very famous and influential in the time through his poster art. Bob Fried was born April 7th, 1937 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was a clock maker and began to train Bob through having him draw diagrams of clocks and gyroscope construction as he was growing up. Bob Fried had a natural interest and talent when it came to drawing and he was admitted to art courses at the Pratt Institute while he was young and throughout high school. He took many classes here growing up which furthered and refined his artistic skills. He later studied graphic art and design at New York City Community College, receiving an Associate of Arts degree, and worked as a commercial artist. In 1963 Fried got married to a woman named Penelope who was a British painter that he met at an exhibition in Brooklyn two years earlier. They had a child together and a great marriage. Later, on a scholarship he and his wife were able to go to Spain where he studied under the artist Francisco de Zurbarán. During this time he painted a lot and his wife did as well. This was a very happy time for them both. It was while he was in Spain that Bob was introduced to Timothy Leary, a leader of the psychedelic drug movement. During this time, Sandos pharmacy LSD, which was made in Switzerland, was a legal, over-the-counter headache relief medication in Spain and much of Europe. They even tried to promote it as a drug to treat psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. However this drug quickly found wider use among artists, writers, actors, and rebellious teens. This drug became an influence on Bob’s most popular work, psychedelic-effect rock poster art. Bob and his wife and child later moved to New York and then San Francisco when Fried was accepted by the San Francisco Art Institute. The first commission Fried got for a rock poster came from a band called Griffin. From 1967-1970 Fried created at least 18 rock concert posters to promote events. He worked for a company called Family Dog for a while which helped him with connections to popular music artists. This was an eclectic group founded by Chet Helms who promoted some of the greatest rock events of all time in San Francisco. Once this died down, Fried turned to fine art and painting prints for the remainder of his life. He also made delicately designed stamp sheets, and it is is rumored that the stamps were used to send postcards through the U.S. mail. Fried died of a stroke in January 9th, 1979. The day of his death, Fried was preparing for a solo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. However, before his death he was able to exhibit both solo and group shows throughout the U.S.. What makes this designer special in my opinion is how he is able to recreate drug induced visuals through his art. His style is extremely evident and he was able to show it throughout all of his different work. I also am interested in working in the music industry one day, designing posters, album covers, merchandise, and more, so his work is particularly interesting and inspiring to me.

Bob Fried’s style incorporated elements from oriental art, pop art, and geometric designs to resemble the psychedelic experience one has on LSD. He used fluid patterns and shapes that when looked at under the effect of hallucinogens, would appear to be moving. He used bright, electric colors and surrealistic patterns and images. He often used fonts that had been popular with the hippie movement and much of the work from each movement paralleled each other. He created posters for some extremely popular bands of the time for example The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Who, Pearl Jam, and many more, as well as popular festivals and events. His work is among the most collectible rock poster art of the time period. Original posters by him are relatively scarce and valuable now. They are now sold for around $50-$1,500 for one poster. This new form advertising introduced through the posters brought a new audience and fan base to the art world that would likely not have otherwise been there. His psychedelic posters had a pop art feel to them yet the art establishment still had trouble recognizing it as pop art in it’s natural context. This was a generation that grew up with finger-painting and art dropped out of school before art appreciation courses had become popular. Art was not as valued in standard education then as it is today. Poster art was a kind of revival movement which made use of the new ideas and forms of mainstream fine art. Fried’s wife has said that Bob did take acid but “he didn’t do it often”. She argues that he did it as a discovery rather than as a recreational activity. He said that when a viewer sees his work, he wants them to pass from one reality to another and to convey dimensional space. He wanted to create feelings of space, “rushing, floating, and going through time.” The posters, however original and artistic, were mass-produced commercial products, and their decline is largely explainable in terms of classical economic laws: flooding the market and bad imitations driving out the good originals. It became somewhat of a tourist fad. However, it was still significant and was a revolutionary movement to sneak into art history. Other artists should know about Bob Fried’s work because it is a wonderful example of how an artist can develop a unique and true to themselves type of style. He was consistent with the aesthetic his work created throughout all of his projects and his work is easily identifiable. 



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