Historical Item

Grateful Dead "Steal Your Face" Logo First Stenciled

Was reading an interesting article/interview about LSD pioneer chemist Owsley "the Bear" Stanley and hopped over to his site for further reading. In 1969, Stanley and artist Bob Thomas worked out the Grateful Dead logo to mark the band's equipment (here's his story). At first, it was just the three-colored lightening bolt, and was used as a stencil.

In the account, Stanley describes how it became a stencil:

"At the warehouse I told Bob the idea that I had, and he made a quick sketch. A mutual friend, Ernie Fischbach, who was visiting with Bob, said 'Give it to me, I'll show you an easy way to put it on the boxes.' Whereupon he proceeded to cut holes in a couple of pieces of stencil paper. One was a circular hole, about 5 1/2 inches in diameter, and the other was a part of a circle 5 inches in diameter. But it was a half circle with a jagged edge. Then he held the stencil to an amp and sprayed a circle of white paint. Then with one side up, the red half circle went on top of the dried white paint and after wiping off the red and turning the stencil over, the blue was applied. This was the first version, and we put it on to all our gear. It helped make it easier to find our stuff in the crunch. I still have an old toolbox with one of the stencils on it."

Scott Williams Receives SFAI's 2005 Adeline Kent Award

Scott Williams's Main Stencil Archive
Here is Scott's San Francisco Arts Institute's Adeline Kent Award Exhibit Stencil Archive

Scott Williams is an artist who has quietly made an indelible mark on the Bay Area landscape with his highly detailed, public stencil and spray-paint murals, paintings, and objects. Since the early 1980s, Williams's work has primarily taken the form of indoor and outdoor murals in gallery and non-art settings, but artist books, retail signage, nightclub bathroom walls, and art cars have all served as his media.

A California native and long-time San Francisco resident, Williams prolifically channels the spirits of psychedelic poster illustration, punk-rock show flyers, appropriation art, political activism, and contemporary street art that has strong and internationally influential roots in this city. His fruitful (not to mention maximal) merger of aesthetics and more than 20 years of devotion to his work make him a particularly fitting choice for the Adaline Kent Award, which honors notable artists of the Golden State.

His is a practice that unfolds in living, breathing West Coast locations. The Mission District flat where Williams lives and works is almost an installation work unto itself. The walls and furniture are covered with stenciled images of pop icons, gorillas, dictators, film stars, fish, art historical references, bicyclists, and a free-ranging selection of subjects. Atop the wall paintings are layers of discrete works on wood, paper, found furniture, black velvet paintings, and whatever else he can get his hands on.

Along with a hefty, but still modest, sampling of the many paintings and objects in his home and studio, this exhibition includes a number of Williams's Exacto cut stencils, essentially re-usable byproducts of his work that are remarkable objets in their own right. Intricate in a way that seems the antithesis of the gritty street context of the murals, the stencils provide a rare insight into the process of their making. The artist has described them as "stored energy"; whether recent or vintage, these works convey Williams's vibrant commitment to creating and sharing his vision.

Glen Helfand, Guest Curator for SFAI

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