Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gary Grimshaw

The first Grimshaw poster I ever saw from 1966
Just last Friday January 10, 2014, an ignored modern master, Gary Grimshaw was  given a one man solo show and inducted into the Scarab Club, one of the oldest cultural institutions in Detroit, He had his name inscribed on the ceiling beams, right up there with Diego Rivera and Norman Rockwell. Gary was 67, and though he had never attended a formal art school or had any academic degrees, he was with out a doubt, one of the most influential graphic poster artists of latter half of the 20th Century and into this one. He sure had an effect on me in 1966, when I saw his first posters on walls in Detroit.
Gary was born in 1946 in Lincoln Park, MI and grew up with his buddies Rob Tyner and Wayne Kramer in a lower middle class industrial neighborhood...whereas most of the kids who lived there would have identified themselves as "Greasers" there was something else happening. This was the birth of Detroit alternative culture...not hippies, but a jazz/rock hybrid of urban beatniks who defined an era, put their stamp on it as freeks! Detroit rock was always apart from what was going on in the rest of the world. A world where the best bands were hybrids of free jazz, hard funk and psycho rock. This was the world that spawned the MC5, Iggy Pop, The Rationals, Mitch Ryder and The Funkadelic to name a few at the time...bands that crossed and erased the lines between avant garde, politics, jazz, soul music, psychedelia and pure pop. Today you could also include great bands like The Cobras, The Dirtbombs, White Stripes and after living there for 15 years raising a family married to the other guitarist of the MC5, Fred Sonic Smith, Patti Smith....This list of artists are all performers that made it outside of the mainstream...they were all
1967 Grande Ball Room
When the phrase "Clapton is God"
was first uttered.
something else.
 Detroit was an industrial town, the birth place of unions, a hot bed of radical left politics and probably the only city where an artist like Sun Ra could appear on the same stage in a rock club and then jam with the rockers and not clear the room!
Gary enlisted in the Navy in the 60's and fought in Vietnam. On his return trip to the States, his ship docked in Frisco and he was exposed to the nascent scene there and the influence of artists like Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and of course the Detroit Car Monster Master, Stanley Mouse! He attended concerts at the Fillmore and became "experienced" and was immersed in the heady atmosphere of 1965...standing at the edge of the abyss and the only logical decision was, WHY NOT JUMP IN? The only answer of course, was YESSSSSSS!
As his childhood buddy, Wayne Kramer said of Gary,  He was the "As kids, Gary Grimshaw was the best artist in our neighborhood," said MC5 guitarist ,"We drew hot rod cars and he knew the secret of how to capture chrome, which made him the coolest to a greaser like me. Of course, Gary became a truly great artist and friend and his art made the world a more beautiful place."
Through his friendship with Kramer and Tyner, he was introduced to Russ Gibbs, the rock entrepreneur who created the legendary Grande Ballroom and began to become a one man in house design machine. He invented the style, his creativity knew no bounds. He allied himself politically with the renegade poet/musician/philosopher who managed the MC5, John Sinclair and his White Panther Party. Gary got busted a few times, but he always managed to have the support it took to survive and move on. He never had the financial reward that he really deserved for the real cultural impact his work had and still has on the way we think about graphics and the way we visually experience and process visual art today. I was inspired by him to create and go beyond since I first saw his work in the mid 60's. I created posters and ad art through the 60's into the 90's that owed so much to the lessons I learned from him about color, visual impact and sheer adventure. Grimshaw's influences took him everywhere. He created some of the iconic poster and album covers of your life. He was working, his creative energy was blasting with the same intensity he had in 1967 right up to the end...He died on Monday, January 13, in Detroit of a heart attack. I find some consolation in knowing he finally began to get the recognition he always deserved. The flame is still blazing away......

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