Pioneer of Psychedelic Art
Stanley Mouse’s nouveau-tribal-psychedelic graphic-style virtually defined the art surrounding American rock music in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A seminal member of the counterculture scene that blossomed in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late 60’s, Mouse, along with his art partner Alton Kelley, created now-classic posters advertising dance concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium, including those of the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and Jimi Hendrix.
“These famed posters captured the very sound of the music,” wrote Joel Selvin in the 1992 book Freehand: The Art of Stanley Mouse. “Perhaps not since Toulouse-Lautrec illustrated cafe society of late 19th-century Paris has an artist’s style and vision been as integrated into the very fabric of his subject.” In fact, Mouse’s work was featured side-by-side with that of Toulouse-Lautrec in a travelling exhibition of the San Diego Museum of Art titled “High Societies” which explores the art that has thrived in some of history’s more decadent times and places. “The High Societies exhibit puts the psychedelic Haight-Ashbury posters in historical context,” Mouse says, “and gets past some of the stigma attached to them because of their association with drugs.”
Arriving on the scene as “a kid from Detroit in Bermuda shorts” who first made a name for himself airbrushing “monster cars” on t-shirts at hot rod shows, Mouse credits the trans-formative aura of the the time and place with his own personal and artistic growth. What’s more, as a backstage regular in early days of rock’s legendary stars, he’s got some great stories: like the time the band Big Brother and the Holding Company, who often rehearsed in Mouse’s studio, auditioned a new singer named Janis Joplin. “The police came to our door and said someone had reported hearing a woman screaming,” Mouse muses. And the rest, like the Mouse images now hanging in venues like the Hermitage in Russia and the New York Museum of Modern Art, is history.
Stanley “Mouse” Miller poses in front of his famous Avalon ballroom poster from 1966