One of my earliest artistic memories comes from my parents house in Miami. My dad had converted his garage into a workshop where he spent time on weekends doing carpentry work or building compositions out of stained glass. It was also where he stored his surfboards. In his workshop though, he had a space on one wall that was dedicated to stickers and decals. He had a Birdwell Beach Britches sticker, a Mr.Zogs Sex Wax sticker, a Lightning Bolt sticker, and lots of others. But he also had a couple by the above named artist, Mr. Rick Griffin. I took it for granted then, but have since come to appreciate, love, and recognize Rick Griffin for the master he was.
His range was enormous- from simplistic and funny cartoons, to densely detailed and juicy illustrated travelogues, to album cover and poster art, to fine oil and airbrush paintings- Rick Griffin touched many worlds. At twelve he was making t-shirts for friends. At 16 he was art director for fledgling SURFER Magazine. In his twenties he was heralded by Life Magazine as one of a few premier artists during the Psychedelic Poster Craze of the late sixties. He was a regular contributor to ZAP Comix. He even designed the original mast-head for Rolling Stone magazine. His work has influenced many artists and designers, most notably, Drew Brophy. Sadly, though, with the exception of fanatics like my father (If not for my father’s love of his work, I would probably be ignorant of him as well) and I, he has largely been ignored for being no more than just another “commercial artist”- which is BS, because if you make art and you sell it, regardless of whether it goes in a private collection or mass reproduced- then guess what, schmuk? You’re a commercial artist. But that’s alright, no need to nurse old wounds, no no, because the time has now come and someone has decided to give the late Mr. Griffin his due. While his work has been featured in several shows both during his life and after- there has never been a Rick Griffin solo show or retrospective- nothing that is, until now-
Laguna Art Museum is currently hosting “Heart and Torch: Rick Griffin’s Transcendance” in an effort to recognize one of the greatest unsung artists in Amerikan history. The show runs through September 30th of this year and features 160 pieces of his work as well as a lecture series from family and peers. Much deserved and long overdue respect for a lowly, “commercial artist”. Selah!