Poster Art: Woodstock

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday August 2, 2018

In two weeks, August 15, 2018 will mark the 49thanniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair—advertised as “three days of peace and music.” For $18, and hours spent in epic traffic jams on roads leading to Bethel, New York, 400,000 and more people gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur’s farm to listen to the best rock music of the era.  

Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock in 1969. © Larry C. Morris/The New York Times

Woodstock was, according to Jon Pareles of the New York Times, “one of the few defining events of the late 1960s that had a clear, happy ending….I had the feeling that the crowd was more than just an audience at a show, that something major was at stake, that Woodstock would prove something to the world. What it proved — that for at least one weekend, hippies meant what they said about peace and love — was fleeting and all too innocent; it couldn’t stand up to everyday human nature or to the pragmatic workings of the market. But 40 years later [in 2009] the sensation lingers.” Info

Currently on view in the windows of Poster House, now under construction on the site of the former Techserve Mac store on West 23rdStreet, is the iconic Woodstock poster, designed by Arnold Skolnick. Poster House, a new museum devoted to art of the poster, is scheduled to open in January 2019. For now, the storefront has become a pop-up exhibition on its own, presenting Hot Poster Gossip on a rotating basis. On the museum’s website, Hot Poster Gossip presents the little-known history behind what might be the most famous poster of the late-century 1900s. 

From Poster House: The concert was planned to take place in Wallkill, a small town in upstate New York; however, the City Council of Wallkill was having issues with this whole concert idea. First, they objected to the original poster by David Byrd’s on the ground that it was too lewd – or, to quote Byrd “They said, ‘we can’t have this poster – it’s just full of sex and drug related images.’ I’m still trying to find those images.” Then, they said that they absolutely could not have more than 5,000 in attendance.

While there was no way that the organizers, John Roberts and Artie Kornfeld would have known that Woodstock would ultimately draw more than 400,000 people, they knew it would certainly bring in more than 5,000 – so, a new location was desperately needed. Roberts and Kornfeld found Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, NY, whose bowl-shaped field they rented for$75,000 at the eleventh hour.

By this time, Byrd had moved on to other projects, so Roberts and Kornfield got their friend Arnold Skolnick to agree to make the poster over the weekend for the astonishing fee of $6,000. Skolnick had never made a poster before, but, as he’d just seen an exhibition on Matisse, he thought that cutting out paper to make figures was probably the best way to go on such a quick turnaround time. And so, the now-iconic Woodstock poster was born. More

Read an interview by Type Directors Club president Doug Clouse with Poster House curator Angelina Lippert here




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