Brian Nixon on Dreams Unreal: 60’s Poster Art Featuring Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin: Rickgriffinfamilydog.jpg

One of my fondest memories serving at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was taking a break from work and walking across the street to the studio of Gordon McClelland.  McClelland is an art historian, artist, author, collector, and  friend of famed artist Rick Griffin.  Together, Gordon and I would talk for hours about art, life, God, and music.  McCelland would tell me marvelous stories about Griffin, the Jesus People Movement, and art in Southern California.  Gordon is an encyclopedia of knowledge.

Dreams Unreal

I was reminded of my time with McClelland as I sat through the opening lecture for the exhibit Dreams Unreal: The Genesis of the Psychedelic Rock Poster at the Albuquerque Museum of Art. Museum director, Andrew Connors, gave a fine introduction on the importance of 60’s poster art and the new collection of posters donated to the museum by Dr. James Dunn.  And the book, Dream Unreal, written by curator Titus O’Brien (UNM Press), is an amazing tribute to the collection and exhibit.

The Big Five

Among the well-known artists discussed in the lecture and within the book are collectively called “The Big Five:” Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Wes Wilson, and Stanley “Mouse” Miller. Together, the five artists forged a new style of art. In doing so, the artists influenced generations of people—from musicians, fellow artists, to the rabid collectors of 60’s memorabilia.

Yet, as I was listening, I couldn’t help going back to my conversations with McClelland whereby he told me about Rick Griffin’s conversation to Christ, and Griffin’s subsequent work within the Jesus People Movement.  I was also reminded of my work with McClelland and artist John Shaffer on a book of Chuck Smith’s and Rick Griffin’s entitled The Gospel of John.

The Gospel of John

In the short bio about Griffin written by McClelland in The Gospel of John, Griffin’s conversion is recounted simply: “By 1970, Rick had received Jesus Christ as Savior and was walking with the Lord.”

And after brief discussion of how Griffin was commissioned to paint The Gospel of John series, McClelland writes, “When Rick committed to something, he went all the way.  That was just his personality.  He prayed and studied the Gospel of John over and over.  In addition, he listed to Chuck Smith’s Bible tapes and read what other pastors and theologians wrote about the book of John.  After about a month he began serious work on the illustrations.”

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SOURCE: Assist News, Brian Nixon

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