From November 22 to December 2, 2018, ClassicPosters.com is auctioning a rare collection of seven John Moehring posters from the artist’s personal archive. Advertising shows produced by Boyd Grafmyre between 1967 and 1969 in Seattle and Portland, the posters showcase some of the greatest bands and performers of the era, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe McDonald, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Donovan, Jeff Beck, John Mayall, and the Grateful Dead.
What the Big Five poster artists were to San Francisco, John Moehring was to Seattle, all by himself. Influenced as a teenager by the illustrations for Treasure Island by N.C. Wyeth and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Arthur Rackham, Moehring was also impressed by the psychedelic concert posters he saw on a trip to San Francisco in 1966. By the spring of 1967, he’d created his first concert posters for a promoter named Trips Lansing. That fall, he delivered the first of the 30 or so posters he designed for Boyd Grafmyre, who was booking shows into the Eagles Auditorium and, later, the Seattle Center Arena.
At first, Moehring leaned on his skills as an illustrator for his posters, but the more he learned about the offset-printing process, the more adventurous his posters became. Moehring’s posters for Eagles Auditorium shows featuring Charles Lloyd, Big Brother, and Country Joe, all of which are up for auction, are good examples of his work from the fall of 1967 through the spring of 1968. As Moehring told me for an article I wrote in 2016 about his work, “In traditional printing on a single-color press, you would have made a film negative, burned a plate, and then started printing,” he said. When Moehring learned that he could also burn a plate from the film positive, he immediately recognized the possibilities. “By doing a two-color run using one film positive and one film negative of what had been a black-and-white image, you’d get 100-percent ink coverage on the sheet.”
Some of these posters were so psychedelic they were barely legible, which drove promoter Grafmyre nuts. “Boyd couldn’t read my lettering,” Moehring recounted in 2016, “so he told me, ‘OK, the next poster you do has to be black-and-white, and it has to be readable.’ So, my poster for the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service had an insane border around it but was otherwise fairly legible. That was the only direction I ever got in two years of working with Boyd.” This poster (shown at top) is also part of the Moehring group—according to Mike Storeim of Classic Posters, this is the first time this poster has come up for auction.
The other gem in the Moehring group is a poster for a November 1968 show by Big Brother, one of the last shows with Janis Joplin as a member of that great band. What’s interesting about this poster is that it features collaged and flopped portraits of Janis Joplin, the source of which was a Berkeley Bonaparte poster by photographer Bob Seidemann, who is credited on Moehring’s poster. Like the Grateful Dead poster, this one rarely comes up for auction.
These John Moehring posters, along with more than 400 others, are up for auction at Classic Posters through December 2, 2018. To learn more about Seattle’s psychedelic poster scene of the late 1960s, pick up a copy of Scott McDougall’s Split Fountain Hieroglyphics.