Rock 'n' roll bestowed on us not only Elvis, the modern electric guitar and an acceptable excuse for dressing kooky. It also shacked up with capitalism from the start and impregnated the idea of "pop culture." Music, fashion and art were as much packaged to sell the latest fad to the world as they were created to express a genuine mood.
Today it continues with clothing tags and nightclub flyers serving much like album covers and rock posters used to--even as collector items. These temporary works of art, though commercial, communicate the times as legitimately as any work created for art's sake.
As creator of such pop-culture icons as the "Endless Summer" movie poster and the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" album cover, artist John Van Hamersveld has helped shape youth culture over a three-decade career that continues. Fourteen of his latest works, including images he inked for the Rolling Stones and several apparel companies, are on exhibit through March at the Lab Anti-Mall in Costa Mesa. This weekend the 54-year-old Newport Beach artist will be the focal point of "The '60s Revisited," which will include an all-day reception honoring him Saturday.
While the fete encourages patrons to attend in period dress and will feature '60s music, Van Hamersveld assured he isn't stuck on nostalgia.
"I'm kind of reinventing myself," he said last week from the Lab Gallery, where he was finishing his installation.
"It's about bringing the '60s sensibility into the '90s," he said.
A retro regurgitation, however, it is not, he insisted.
"There's the distance of time and history, but there's still an echo," he said. "It's about continuing the energy from then to today. It's the interpretation that makes it '90s."
Van Hamersveld's interpretations of work by musicians, filmmakers and fashion designers resulted in a seemingly endless, colorful range of credits--as well as anecdotes of his experiences. He happened onto his work as a young Art Center student living in Los Angeles in the early '60s, when rock and its dogging corporate machine were still in infancy. He proffered his graphic talents to an early Surfer Magazine and to Capitol Records, where he designed more than 300 rock album covers and seminal posters for Jimi Hendrix and the Pinnacle Rock Concerts.
Since then, his eclectic resume includes the album cover for the Rolling Stones' 1972 "Exile on Main Street"; stints as art director at L.A. Style and Buzz magazines; teaching positions at CalArts, Art Center College of Design and Otis Parsons School of Design; identity redesigns for the Contempo Casuals and Fatburger chains; a 360-foot mural at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the 1984 Olympic Games; logo designs for sportswear labels Gotcha and Jimmy Z, and assorted poster, album-cover and T-shirt graphics for companies in the United States and Japan. He also designed the clean trademark for the youth-driven Lab.
The 14 images in the show are enlarged prints of screens for T-shirts--the most democratic of garments (next to jeans) for their basic, equalizing purpose and, at the same time, ability to make an individual statement. Each image almost looks executed by a different artist, from the crowned skull framed in stars to the primitive eyes, behind bars, featured on one of the Stones' Voodoo Lounge concert tees. Just as democratic are his tools: a black marker, an X-Acto knife, a copier machine and a computer.
"If there's a difference in my style from one work to the next," he said, "it's an emotional thing. Moving and changing is what feeds the soul."
Van Hamersveld attributes his staying power to his active role in pop culture and its commerce. That he was forced to stop surfing in August when he broke his arm hasn't slowed his pace. He continues attending parties and events where musicians, designers and scenesters mix.
He moved to Newport Beach in August, 1993, from Malibu, where he had tired of the local politics and environmental tensions. He was fascinated with the "infrastructure design" of Orange County, he said. The move also put him closer to the giant active-wear industry and related pop culture here.
"The idea is to move in the culture and change with it," Van Hamersveld said. "Some people don't know me, and I like to move around circles this way, just taking it all in."
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Who: "The '60s Revisited," honoring artist John Van Hamersveld.
When: Saturday, March 4, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, March 5, noon to 7 p.m.
Where: The Lab Anti-Mall, 2930 Bristol St., Costa Mesa.
Whereabouts: From the San Diego (405) Freeway, exit Bristol Street South and go past Baker. The Lab is on the east side of Bristol, next to Pep Boys.
Where to call: (714) 966-6661.