San Francisco #3 The History of The Grateful Dead
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The now famous 1968 revolution in San Francisco grew our of the former Beat era from the same city. The ideological and cultural constructs of the Haight Ashbury era had all been explored in the influential writings of the Beat era writers. Taking the Beat writings in to the “Flower Power” era was the particularly influential publication “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe’s featuring Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady, Dean Moriarty in the iconic Jack Kerouac novel “On the road”. The Kool Aid acid test itself was an event that would take place in San Francisco involving the ingestion of large amounts of L.S.D. The house band at these particular parties was The Grateful Dead. The 1966 Trips festival was one of the most well known of these Acid Tests and the poster from this event is featured on some of the interior walls of the sculpture. The pattern of the poster also forms part of the wharves sticking out in to the bay from the city. The Grateful Dead performed numerous times in the bay area in the 1960s performing at the important festivals like the “Krishna consciousness Comes West” festival, featuring Allen Ginsberg.
It could be said that the Grateful Dead were at the very epicenter of the 1960s counter culture movement and central to the Haight Ashbury, San Francisco scene of the late 1960s. During this period large amounts of L.S.D were manufactured and consumed, perhaps the most famous producer was the Chemist Owsley Stanley, who made what was reputed to be the finest and purest version of the drug. He also financed the Grateful Dead in the early days and constructed the “Dead’s Wall of Sound”, speaker system. Owsley otherwise known as “The Bear” is referenced in some of the art work on the Grateful Dead albums. The dancing bears designed by Bob Thomas references Owsley and the circular forms inside the sculpture are from the LP “The History of The Grateful Dead Vol 1”. He also designed with Bob Thomas the iconic skull and lightning bolt logo on The Steal Your Face album. Much of the L.S.D ended up being produced onto sheets of Blotter paper, known as “Blotters”. Artwork appeared on these perforated sheets, several of these sheets have been used in the sculpture, including one featuring the Haight Ashbury, one featuring Gerry Garcia’s hand print with the missing finger and one featuring Owsley and his sound system. The entire surrounding white area of the sculpture has been perforated too. The cut through text on the outer walls of the sculpture are from the song “Truckin” the lyrics in this song reference the arrest on drug charges of Owsley.
The fragmented image on the surface of the sculpture is from a poster of the LP record ‘Dead Set” which featured a painting of San Francisco. The LP record covers underneath the street networks are from the LPs, American Beauty, Anthem of The Sun, Aoxomwoxoa, From The Mars Hotel,The Grateful Dead,Terrapin Station, Steal Your Face, Wake of The Flood and The History of The Grateful Dead Volume 1. There is also a section of a poster advertising the famous 1968/69 “winterland” New Years Eve ball in San Francisco featuring the Grateful Dead.