I get invited to a lot of art openings and recently had to tell some friends that I was burned out on them, recalling a couple of art parties from a few months back.
One was an artist’s reception.
I was at a party one night and ran into artist John Van Hamersveld. He did the movie poster for Endless Summer and album covers for the likes of Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Blondie, the Beatles, and the Stones. He told me about a reception he was having at the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery in the Gaslamp.
It was the Saturday night that 6700 fans saw 67-year-old Bob Dylan at Petco. But on Fifth Avenue for the 67-year-old artist that did the artwork for Dylan’s album Billy the Kid, it was roughly 67 fans that trickled in to see him and his work.
Van Hamersveld did the cover to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. And it was his Grinning Johnny image that inspired the Stones’ famous tongue logo.
I listened as his wife told a couple in the gallery that he and Shepard Fairey were the two official artists for MTV’s “Rock the Vote” campaign.
I overheard Van Hamersveld and a surfboard maker talk about work they did for Andy Warhol. An older surfer was telling his friend that Van Hamersveld lived in La Jolla after high school, surfing with the La Jolla Windansea crew.
One surfer told the board maker, “I had one of your boards, and this guy helped me move years ago. When we were finishing, he said that all he wanted was that surfboard. I gave it to him for helping me out. And I regret that I did that. He had said it was all he wanted when he saw it sitting in my garage.”
I walked around the show and stopped to try and figure out the art on one of the walls. It had shiny car engine parts on a slab of wood — perfect for the art lover who wants to hang their art in the garage, I guessed.
I spoke with Van Hamersveld for half an hour. He talked about the summer of ‘64, when he was an art student being offered the Magical Mystery Tour album cover. “San Francisco was already into the psychedelic movement,” he told me. “And, their first poster came out the same time as that album. Since the Beatles weren’t on the cover, really [they’re wearing masks], the label wanted the songs to stand out. We put all the song titles on the album cover art. So on top of everything being terribly abstract, we had their tunes on the cover.”
In the ‘60s, Van Hamersveld created classic concert posters. He designed show posters for the Who, Velvet Underground, and many others.
“I did that Blue Cheer [Vincebus Eruptum] cover that is silver,” he told me. “I’ve signed some of those for older people that were thrilled. It’s part of their culture growing up. Meeting me was probably the closest they’ll get to meeting someone from that period of time that had an impact on what they loved.”
Van Hamersveld expressed his disappointment in current CD covers.
One guy walked by as he was saying to his wife, “Do you realize he only made $150 for that Endless Summer poster?” A magazine at the gallery confirmed that fact. For the less popular Endless Winter poster, Van Hamersveld was paid a few thousand.
Since his Rolling Stones album had a bunch of weird photographs, I asked if the record label was bothered by the art or the costs. “Well, that album folded out four ways. It was expensive. But the zipper album [Sticky Fingers, which Warhol created] was expensive. So was the banana that peeled [another Warhol creation for the Velvet Underground]. They wanted the albums to cost 19 cents. These ones might’ve been more, but they were successful, so they didn’t mind.”
I asked if he ever met the bands or got word on their opinions as to how they liked his art. “Oh, no. Well, I spent a week with George Harrison, but I didn’t usually meet the musicians.”
Did Van Hamersveld work with any bands he didn’t like?
“Yeah. I did the Hotter Than Hell album for Kiss. I didn’t like them at all.”
My girlfriend is a bit younger than me and wasn’t as familiar with his album or concert posters. I said, “Well, you’re probably familiar with one of his creations. He did the logo for Fatburger.”
A few weeks before that event, I went to an Adapta Project art party south of Tijuana. It was called “A Room of One’s Own” and celebrated TJ’s top artists, including Tania Candiani, Mely Barragán, Daniel Ruanova, and Jorge Tellaeche. Adapta Project, a local curatorial group, puts on several exhibitions a year.
The setting was in a Terra Sur mansion between Tijuana and Rosarito Beach. We got there on buses out of Old Town.
One deck of the house had a fire pit and Jacuzzi. Servers brought around drinks and appetizers.
A room in the house was set up for home sales of beachfront properties, which turned off a few in the crowd. I overheard one person say, “It’s like we’re being asked to buy a timeshare.” I disagreed. Nobody asked them, much less pressured them, to buy anything. The other rooms allowed each artist to create a theme around their sculptures, videos, paintings, and photography. One room had a barnyard theme with haystacks and two severed pig heads on each side of a bed. That freaked me out. I talked to Kinsee, who works for the Adapta Project. She told me about picking up the pig heads at a store and the glares she got from the other customers. Someone in line thought she was using them for a particular recipe.
I walked from room to room admiring the interesting artwork (one of my favorites was a sculpture of several squirt guns melted together) as well as the view of the ocean.