An iconic 1967 San Francisco image by Dave Schiller and Jim Michaelson of Sparta Graphics, pioneers of the pscychedelic posters that adorned the Bay Area music scene in the 1960s.
This exciting graphic poster shows San Francisco as if viewed from across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. The city is portrayed with its hilly terrain wildly compressed and exaggerated to yield a single, preposterous mountain, densely-packed with well known landmarks. There is much emphasis on the city’s thriving music scene, with numerous artists and local venues of the period getting shout-outs, including the Family Dog, Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Jefferson Airplane, this last represented by a ramshackle airship flying above the city, dropping daisies. The Fillmore Auditorium bears a tiny poster reading “Bill Graham is a good guy” (Graham was a major customer of Sparta Graphics, which produced this and many other posters.) The Golden Gate Bridge flies banners reading “Peace” and “Love,” and across the Bay Sausalito is crowded with the tents of a “Hippy Summer Camp,” all in contrast to the “Hate” flag flying above Alcatraz.
In a recent publication Schiller recounts the origin story of Sparta Graphics:
“Forty years ago, 23-year-old graduate student Dave Schiller organized a series of dance concerts in San José, California. Another student, budding young illustrator Jim Michaelson, submitted the winning entry in Dave’s poster contest. The dance concerts were filled to capacity which lead the posters to became very popular and collectible. Before long Dave and Jim were producing only posters.
“Their new venture, Sparta Graphics, wasn’t a new idea. Fifty miles to the North, The Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore had been producing weekly posters in San Francisco, but these new posters coming out of San Jose were different. The legendary Bill Graham posted them in the Fillmore lobby alongside his own posters. You didn’t need to be a part of the Haight Ashbury scene to be dazzled by them. These posters had a special flair and appeal, owing much to Michaelson’s rich illustrations, wild ‘psychedelic’ lettering, and excellent sense of color. Some were printed with metallic inks and some were printed with vivid fluorescent ‘day-glo’ inks.
“With the support of prominent managers such as Bill Graham and Sid Bernstein, posters featuring Eric Burdon and the Animals, the Byrds, Bee Gees, Buffalo Springfield, and Jefferson Airplane soon became part of the Sparta Graphics collection. In all, Dave and Jim produced 16 posters from 1966 to 1968.” (Dave Schiller, “40 Years Later: Posters from the 1960s.”)