Monday, October 18, 2010

Ultraviolet: 69 Blacklight Posters from the Aquarian Age and Beyond

Ultraviolet: 69 Blacklight Posters from the Aquarian Age and Beyond, by Dan Donahue
October, 2009 Abrams Image Publishing

As I've mentioned before, I'm fascinated with blacklight posters. They hold a special appeal for me, so this book was right up my alley. In fact I liked it so much I picked up two copies, one for safekeeping, one for those whiskey-prone nights when I feel like turning on the blacklight and gawking at the eye-popping colors.

And the colors truly do pop; Ultraviolet is printed in UV-responsive ink, which means that the posters featured within glow beneath a blacklight, just like their original incarnations. (I've placed photos below of how a few of these posters look when under a blacklight.) Ultraviolet a hell of a way to save cash: a few years ago I was stung by the blacklight bug and thought about picking up some vintage posters. But vulture eBay sellers price them into the stratosphere; don't even get me started on the elusive Marvel Third Eye blacklight posters from 1971, which one dumb-ass eBay seller currently has listed for a whopping $899 each! (I luckily own two of them -- I plan to feature them here one of these days -- and I can vouch for their impact beneath a blacklight. But still...eight hundred and ninety-nine fucking dollars???)

Perhaps what's most surprising is it's taken so long for a book on blacklight poster art to be published. I can't believe no publisher has yet considered that the kids who had blacklight posters in the '60s and '70s (and beyond) are now adults who might enjoy looking back at this forgotten form of art.

I got my first blacklight when I was 3 or 4, back in the late '70s. It was a panther and it had glowing green eyes. Then in college I got a supercool one titled "Spectrum" at a Spencer's store. The poster was very psychedelic, with a black skull surrounded by layers and layers of tiny people and things. You could stare at it for dopefueled hours and keep seeing something new. (Unfortunately it's not one of the posters featured in Ultraviolet.) It's funny: "Spectrum" was copyrighted 1974, so given that I bought my copy in 1994 it must've been a pretty popular print. But those days of yore...lounging in my dorm room with my girlfriend, the lights off, the blacklight on, music blasting on the stereo...hell, what with the controlled substances and the premarital sex it was more like 1974 than 1994.

Then a few years ago I rediscovered blacklight posters, and I have to say these things are addictive. In a way you're getting two pieces of art for the price of one; I love how the colors and shades change when placed under a blacklight. I bought a few of them with the express intent of framing them up in my study room when we moved into our new house. We move in and guess what my wife declares -- they'd look too tacky. Drum roll, please.

Which brings me back to my opening comment -- Ultraviolet is a perfect way to recapture your blacklit youth while saving both time and money! Dan Donahue and Abrams Image are to be thanked profusely for bringing this book to print. 69 posters are featured, spanning from the '60s to the late '70s, with artist and publication info for each (where available). Even the Third Eye company is featured; their "Zephyr" (the third poster down in my photos below), an original print released the same year as their Marvel series, is my favorite poster here.

To put it simply, I own at least a thousand books. This one is my favorite.

Here are a few of the posters featured in Ultraviolet as they appear beneath a blacklight, taken with my patented crappy digital camera. Note of course that these photos do little justice to the pop these pages have in person. But at least they give you an idea of the colorful impact:


Will Errickson said...

Brings back memories of the head shop in my local mall when I was a kid in the '70s as well, although I was pretty creeped out by these posters. Of course I had no idea what a "head shop" was then anyway.

Tim Mayer said...

Back in the 70's these posters were everywhere. I have vivid recollections of walking into the back of a local retail store and seeing one in the "psychedelic" section.