Anyone browsing a new psychedelic era artwork exhibit in New York must pause and think, “Wait, isn’t it the Grateful Dead album cover?”
And they will be partially correct. About 30 years ago, artist, curator, and art collector Jacques Barcaster was checking out the gallery auction and came across the dead logo and the nearly 100-year-old ink painting that was the basis of the album art. He snapped it and now its work (titled “Skeleton in a Rose”) has been published for the first time in over 30 years in “Field Trip: Psychedelic Solutions, 1986-1995”, which is part of the outsider. increase. An art fair at the Metropolitan House in New York.
Solving the story of the illustration is a strange journey that is almost as long as the story of Dead itself. By 1966, two San Francisco-based artists, Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, had partnered and were already in the Dead World. For inspiration, they would stop by the San Francisco Public Library to peruse rare art and poster books.
That year, the duo was hired to make a poster for Dead’s September 1966 show at the Avalon Ballroom.Back in the library they went to, in the stack they found Omar Khayyam’s Rubayart, A collection of 11th century poetry by Persian writers. This particular edition from 1913 featured illustrations by British artist Edmund Joseph (sometimes EJ) Sullivan and specifically told them: black-and-white paintings of skeletons surrounded by roses, those on their heads. There is a crown of. “We looked at the skeleton and said,’This is the Grateful Dead here and there. You have to use it,'” Mouse recalls. Given how old Iro was by that time, Mouse added, “it seemed quite uncopyrighted.”
As Mouse admits, the problem is that the book was so valuable that I couldn’t check it out of the library. So Kelly cut it out of the book with a penknife, sneaked out the pages from the library, and brought them to the studio they were using. Using a pre-Xerox photostat machine, they made a copy of the drawing, the mouse colored it, and now added iconic lettering. (Some of the accompanying poems that weren’t used in the poster read: “One is certain, life flies. One is certain, the rest are lies.”)
After being used in the show poster, Dead trimmed it to the skull for the cover of the 1971 live album. Grateful dead (Also known as “Skull and Roses”, or the band’s favorite name “Skullfuck”). This image also became the logo of the band used for stationery and business cards.
Around 1993, Custer, who owned the legendary Greenwich Village art gallery Psychedelic Solution, jumped into an auction preview at Christie’s, New York, with the goal of purchasing a rare Velvet Underground artwork. .. In the adjoining room, he spy on another auction preview. This is one of the Victorian artwork.
And there was a picture of Sullivan’s original 9.5 “x7” ink reproduced in the book.
Originally from the Bay Area, Custer, who first saw dead play live in 1967, quickly realized it. “I was looking at all these drawings and died on my truck,” he says. “And I said,’Wait a minute? What’s up? That’s skeletons and roses! This is for shit Sale? ‘” Taking a closer look, Kastor confirmed that some of Sullivan’s original ideas had been erased and moved to the artwork.
Later, the original drawings owned by British collectors were certainly available, and Kastor placed an initial bid of $ 10,000 at a subsequent auction. To my surprise, few people opposed him. He was able to let it go for $ 11,000. “These people were the guys in the stony-cold Victorian illustrations,” he says. “No one understood the reference.”
In addition to works by HR Giger, Robert Crumb, Rick Griffin, Victor Moskoso, Gary Panter, Robert Williams and others, the field trip also features a watercolor painting that Custer called Joni Mitchell’s “Trippy” in 1967. However, Sullivan’s paintings stand out in many ways. “There is a red velvet matte and it is very finished,” says exhibition curator artist Fred Tomaselli. “It’s really sick.”
Mice, now 81 years old and still working, laughed when he remembered the origin of the dead skeleton and roses. “I’m most famous for what I didn’t do.” (Kelly died in 2008.) He’s a little embarrassed by the illegal theft of his work, but now he’s relieved. “A few years ago, a lecture at the library made me angry with it,” he says. “They laughed at it. I think Sullivan is laughing at his grave.”