Bob Masse is the poster boy of poster boys.
The B.C. born illustrator has created some of the most iconic rock posters around. He still works from his home studio on Salt Spring Island, where he’s lived for the last 10 years.
He started working for Vancouver’s beatnik coffee houses fresh out of art school and became a pioneer in the psychedelic poster art movement of the ’60s.
“A friend had a cousin in one of those beatnik coffee houses that were happening in the early ’60s. We used to hang around there and we said we’d do a free poster for them. The guy told us to go ahead and do it. So we started doing some free posters and that meant we got in, we got free drinks and we’d hang around and have a great time. Then I did something for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. That was the time I did my famous Bob Dylan piece, where I spelled his name wrong (Dylon). That’s really a popular poster now,” Masse says with a laugh.
He went on to produce posters for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, the Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Cream, Tori Amos and U2, and so many others including modern bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, Fiona Apple and the Smashing Pumpkins.
A trip to San Francisco opened Masse’s eyes to the vivid colours and psychedelic stylings of poster artists for the Filmore, the Avalon and the Family Dog. He brought that inspiration home to Vancouver and made the style his own.
“I’d go down with the promoter who was throwing the gigs,” says Masse. “We’d drive straight down, sleep in the car or stay at Grateful Dead house on Ashbury Street. I would see all these brightly coloured posters, at this point I was doing these little black and white things,” Masse says.
“The promoters had some money so they could pay for posters. Walking down Haight-Ashbury with all the brightly coloured posters, it was fabulous. So I took that kind of feeling that I saw there and started bringing it up north.”
Masse is well known for his art nouveau style, which is influenced by the work of Alphonse Mucha in particular.
Because he was making little, if any money making posters at the time, Masse says he at least had artistic freedom.
“In a lot of cases the art had nothing to do with the band whatsoever,” says Masse.
“We figured if we’re not making any money off it, we’re going to do whatever, because if it’s free you can’t really complain. That’s one of the nice things about this stuff. I had free reign to do whatever I wanted and that was fun for me. It was very much like fine art that way.”
Olio Artists and Workers Cooperative is hosting an exhibition of Masse’s work called Retinal Circus, a retrospective of 50 years of psychedelia and rock ’n roll history. Olio & Masse will be producing a very limited edition of signed & numbered screenprints of his historic 1967 Trips Festival poster featuring Jefferson Airplane for the occasion.
Masee will be giving a presentation at Pecha Kucha Night Victoria: Music, earlier that evening about his work as an illustrator in the music industry. Presenters get 20 seconds for each of 20 slides to tell their story.
Presenters also include John Threlfall, Wes Borg, Jason Guille, Mike Edel, Evan Pine, Gabrielle Odowichuk, Jess Paffard, Tiemen Kulpers, Jennifer Timmer Trail, Chris Nohr and Aaron Bergunder. M
Olio Artists and Workers Cooperative
(614 1/2 Fisgard Street)
Opening Reception Thurs, Dec. 8 at 8pm
Masse will be in attendance
Victoria Event Centre
Thurs, Dec. 8 at 7pm, $10.