Light, Smoke, and Acid: John Van Hamersveld on His Psychedelic Posters

On January 8, 2015, IFA PhD Candidate Elizabeth Buhe sat down with John Van Hamersveld in his Rancho Palos Verdes studio to discuss his work as a graphic designer, and, in particular, his 1960s psychedelic posters designed for Pinnacle Productions. 

ifacontemporary John Van Hamersveld in his San Pedro Studio January 2015
John Van Hamersveld in his San Pedro studio, January 2015. Photograph by the author.

EB: To start, why don’t you tell me a little about your artistic formation.

JVH: I was guided into graphic arts and communication of American and worldwide design at Art Center. At Art Center I would go to this store in Westwood called Flax, and they had an international magazine stand there. I was able to see even further how typographical design, photographs, and the communication process were European and went back to the Bauhaus. But then—boom—you know, it was something that was very contemporary and everywhere with Life Magazine and all that.

EB: So what years are we talking about here?

JVH: That’s in the 50s, from the 50s going into the 60s. 1961 I go to Art Center. The second part is that I leave Art Center early, one year after my education there, and I’m taking off the summer. My father gets me a job at Northrop Aviation. Between the director and himself, they guided me into publication making. They would make these books up that they’d show to generals on all the secret information on developing and testing. So at home, I decided after learning all that I can do my own surfing magazine. So I created a surfing magazine in my bedroom. I gathered up people from around the community and made the stories up, and then basically put it all together in my bedroom and took it down the street and had a printer—just an ordinary store-front printer—print it. So out of that, all the sudden, I was at Surfer Magazine. And then I was at another magazine called Surf Guide. So there’s three magazines that I’d been designing over a three-year period of time. I decided that I’m going to go to Chouinard, and get back into my art education. So I go to Chouinard, which is just turning into CalArts, and changing all of the sudden. At Chouinard I was anticipating becoming a painter, and I showed my canvases there. This was in 1965. The counselor who starts me out says you can take photography, you can take film, you can take video, and you can take animation. You can take all these other things that would be complementary to your communication classes of graphic design. So all the sudden it was like art! But it was media art. That was then developed into a thing called Pinnacle, which was this big promotion that I was able to do.

EB: Right. Before we start with Pinnacle, can we go back to some of your earlier influences?

JVH: That’s the design and art dichotomy and conflict, and social difficulties as well.

EB: I have a couple of questions around that. What did you feel like the difference was between your education at the Art Center and what you picked up at Chouinard? Also, this question—you mentioned painting—and certainly at this time the dominant mode of painting was abstraction. So what was it like to go into school and have these options of all kinds of artistic production, when painting seems abstract, but when what you continued on with was totally representational, totally legible?

JVH: The Art School practices abstraction, that’s its forte—its ability to take ordinary life, a middle class standard, and change that into poetry. In communication they wanted me to, you know… MILK. How to say “milk”? That’s all they wanted to do, to say “milk” and advertise it and whatever. Then over here, in the communication class, was the story. But the story was how you edited it and how you made it into an abstraction and then into a narrative. So that’s going on at UCLA, SC, Harvard, and all these different places where students are learning about Godard and Buñuel and Dalí and Man Ray and Duchamp. And then the beautiful guy who comes through the whole thing is Andy Warhol who shows where art and communication can actually be media. Now the difference between Art Center and Chouinard was that I went into Art Center as someone who would learn about graphic design, but I drew beautifully. I drew in a Roman style, which is more conservative and representational. When I leave that education [I feel] a dichotomy where I can draw and make all these things. It could be illustration but then there’s design over here and photographs and typography. At CalArts, then, [was] the ability to actually be poetic, to find abstraction and communicate that in photography and film and animation with those teachers who came from Disney and the film establishment. It was very sophisticated. Kerouac is there, Man Ray is there. Chouinard was turning into a media school, a performance school, a multi-discipline school, creating great latitude to work in all kinds of different subjects at the same time with different kinds of media.

EB: Did you feel the presence or influence of Disney animation while you were there? What was that like?

JVH: I had T. [Thornton] Hee who taught the animation class, who was involved in Fantasia. We were very aware of that, because you had to draw it.

EB: Okay, so you did—what did you draw, then?

JVH: Well, you drew abstractions, these characters, or these things. In front of him what I would do was bring in the movie camera and explain to him that I wanted to make movies, but make them in animation and break them into light shows. So it’s multi-layered with all these colors and fluids, and that was really what Pinnacle became.

EB: So you were producing films that were like that at Chouinard. Is that what you’re saying?

JVH: Yeah, wanting to make them into happenings with the film as a light show.

EB: And how did you get that idea?

JVH: I think it was probably Allan Kaprow, that’s one side of it. And then it was the light show that came out of San Francisco. It was early 1967 going up there and seeing it and saying, ahhh, I can get my happening to work! I got a grant from the school to do the happening.

EB: To go back to Kaprow for a second, how were you aware of him, or how were you digesting the things that were going on in New York?

JVH: The wonderful part—there was a guy named [Milton] Zolotoff—he was one of the teachers. And he was a reader, he read books. So he would just talk about Tom Wolfe and the Candy Coated Baby [Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby] and that sort of fit with Warhol.

EB: So he was one of your teachers at Chouinard?

JVH: Yes. Right. Zolotoff. He made it all sparkly and psychedelic in a way. He wanted to be a part of our generation, because we’re all smoking pot and taking acid [laughs]. And the other teacher [Lou Danziger] was totally straight and a communication person and probably didn’t even drink. He was so serious about clarity and reality.

EB: You mentioned that you got a grant [for Pinnacle] from Chouinard. I wonder if you remember what you proposed in that grant or how that came to be. What did you say you wanted to do?

JVH: Well, I said I wanted to take the Elk’s Hall, which was a venue that the school used to do bands. I wanted to take that auditorium—the smaller auditorium—and put up these screens and make these movies. People would come and the movies would be shown and the bands would be playing. So it was this mixed, happening kind of thing. There could people dancing in costumes and all that. I tried to promote that within the film school and I couldn’t get anybody to help me. As I went into this summer vacation and ended up at Capitol for six or seven months I finally got some people together and we created Pinnacle.

EB: This was 1966, right?

JVH: 1966/67.

EB: So you didn’t really find people at Chouinard who were willing to collaborate with you.

JVH: No. Everybody was so busy with their own stuff.

John Van Hamersveld with the Indian poster, 1968. Photograph by Ron Cooper. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.
John Van Hamersveld with the Indian poster, 1968. Photograph by Ron Cooper. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.

EB: So how did you find the artists who became the Single Wing Turquoise Bird?

JVH: The most interesting part of that is that I set up a studio, the Coronado Studio, and I was organizing these people. The other loft opened. Barry Le Va went away—he is a famous conceptual artist, he was my roommate there—and another [roommate] came in, and then he left. So I all the sudden had two big studios, so there’s where I started having people over and talking about it and setting up the first show that came in November, the Electric Wonders. So I drew people from UCLA and SC film school. We met Hugh Romney [also called Wavy Gravy] of the Hog Farm. He was brought in for the liquid stuff, so that was all combined probably in the second and third show. The first show was just Caleb [Deschanel], I, and Barry Le Va. And it was just light and smoke and the films running.

EB: I wanted to ask you what it was like to be at one of these concerts. Can you describe that—what you saw, what you heard, what the people were like?

JVH: If you can imagine 4500 people each day, two days a week, Friday and Saturday. Something like the Cream was 4500 people-plus stacked into this place with the stage and all that, just packed in there. The doors around the outside had security people and there were 2000 people in the parking lot [laughs]. And there would be a cluster of like thirty around each door, and they would force the door open. The door would fly open and the guy would try to block. About three or four people would scuffle through past the people sitting down and worm into the audience. We had bought an Altec Lansing sound system. Most [bands], like the Grateful Dead, would bring their own sound system. Owsley Stanley would be the guy who had the bus and the trucks and all the equipment. In our case, we finally were overthrowing that and having our own so we could actually have this marvelous sound system. The pot is really strong, like a cloud over this thing. And there’s a mirror ball at the top, and all those prickly lines were going around the audience. On the screens, then, and in the balcony there was the pit, where George Lucas, Taylor Hackford, Caleb Deschanel, the Hog Farm people, and various other people from UCLA—that would be [Burton] Gershfield who did Now That the Buffalo’s Gone, Pat O’Neill with that whole new system—[would be there]. So it was quite a scene in terms of just the people in the pit. Projecting across onto the screen [was] this multi-layered filmic kind of panorama.

EB: Was there only one screen or were there several?

JVH: One screen on the side and then we changed everything to the front and side. So there was a front panel and a side panel that were probably about 150 feet long.

EB: The liquid light show artists, would they project from elevated platforms, or from a balcony?

JVH: From a balcony. Second floor.

EB: Is it the Shrine Exposition Hall? On the posters I see the location listed as both the Exposition Hall and the Auditorium.

JVH: Shrine Exposition Hall, but Jimi Hendrix was in the Auditorium. One they had for fairs, so you could have horses and elephants and trucks and all that kind of stuff.

EB: So the Exposition Hall was the larger one and that’s where all but Jimi Hendrix were held?

JVH: [The] Jimi Hendrix [concert] was seated. And the others would have been standing. Dance concert. [Looking at Van Hamersveld’s photograph of the Shrine Exposition Hall] The screen moved up a little bit and there was one across the front. The throw was from the balcony. The balcony’s the second floor.

EB: Could you do a light show in the Auditorium?

JVH: Yes, there was one done. Rear projection. There’s a guy at CalArts, [Michael] Scroggins. The way I developed it is that I started out with Caleb who was at SC. He brought in Charlie Lippincott, and Charlie became kind of like a manager. We had brought another faction in called Thomas Edison Light Show. We would use them for one kind of thing, and the Hog Farm and the other stuff as a combination. Then Thomas Edison wanted to do their own promotions and cut us off and went to [the] manager of the Shrine Exposition Hall to have their own date. So that did happen. We parted with them. Charlie organized everybody into what he called—he was the one who named it—the Single Wing Turquoise Bird. And that sort of comes after the Hendrix show, I think that’s the way it goes.

EB: Did you hang out with those guys, like Jeff Perkins and Peter Mays?

JVH: Yeah everybody, yeah. Well Burt Gershfield was this wonderful insane guy from UCLA who was just a firecracker of a character. He liked me and we spent a lot of time together. Pat O’Neill comes through there, the Whitney brothers. Everybody’s kind of organized—feeding information into what could be projected. I think the struggle was that [within] the Single Wing Turquoise Bird David Lebrun became kind of like a political component and caused a separation so that he and Charlie and Scroggins and Perkins then wanted to become their own company, like Thomas Edison. So I, in a sense, relieved myself of managing that and went back to my campaigns and talking to Sepp [Donahower] and Marc [Chase] over who was going to come to the show. So I had the biggest budget. I had $17,000 to spread around through the media, and the Hall, and the band.

EB: That budget came both from Chouinard and from the tuna fish company? Is that how you got your money?

JVH: Chouinard was cut off—I left and didn’t go back to any of that. It really came from the StarKist Tuna family, the Bogdanovich’s. They were our first … that went on for three or four months. Then as it gradually went on into the summer, these characters that we were setting up in the earlier part, which is called Sound Spectrum—Tom Otto. So what he does is he brings the acid society, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. Here I am in the studio—this is before I move to the Kingsley building—Otto is standing right there. And there are four guys behind him who I can kind of see, but Otto’s personality was such … [he was] rolling up these banana-papered joints and handing them back and forth and la da da da da. He wanted to sell tickets at the Sound Spectrum in Laguna Beach. So it turns out in Laguna Beach, the Pacific Coast Highway is like that, and if you were the Brotherhood you’d come down the Pacific Coast Highway, and go down, and the Sound Spectrum would be on the corner. So you’d beep and someone would come out and give you whatever you wanted, new records, dope, whatever. And then travel on [laughs]. In exchange for that came the suitcases of money. And that was easy money. Sepp and Marc decided they would join in and fund Pinnacle that way. I didn’t want to have a thing to do with it for fear that I would be connected … there I was, you know, [with] the Endless Summer reputation.

EB: So now we’re in mid-1967?

JVH: Yeah, summer of ’67. It ended in November, like a year later. I left for London. Pinnacle Productions was bankrupt—it was over.

EB: In terms of money, Sam Francis financed the Single Wing Turquoise Bird …

JVH: That’s a part that I don’t know about. That’s between Perkins and Charlie. I disappeared from that scene.

EB: Was he [Francis] ever around?

JVH: I saw him in the art scene, yes.

EB: But not at the Pinnacle concerts?

JVH: No. Not at the events. Dan Cytron, who was in my—at the time Honeya Thompson, my girlfriend at Otis—he was working for Sam Francis.

EB: Right, as his paint technician. Did you know Dan?

JVH: Yeah, I knew Dan very well through my girlfriend who was going to Otis.

EB: She was at Otis and so was Dan?

JVH: Right. There was a whole group of people. The Coronado Studio was like right here, and across the street, like a block, is Otis Art Institute. Down Commonwealth one block is Seventh Street. And [at] Seventh and Grand View is Chouinard. So it’s like a community that would come over to the house. UCLA was over in Westwood, and SC was down Hoover. So it was kind of like the hub. That particular part of town was like the underground.

EB: Let’s talk a little bit about the posters.

JVH: The most interesting part of the posters is that it’s a relationship with Rick Griffin from the beginning. When I’m making the surfing magazine, he comes over and does the cartoons for it. That causes a big problem with John Severson [founder of Surfer Magazine]. Rick is really the one who makes the phone call to Severson, and I go to Surfer. Rick and I were working at Surfer. Rick has this terrible accident, and he’s terribly altered by it. He comes with a patch on his eye, and with his short blonde hair, having recovered from all kinds of things at the hospital. He brings a girl named Monique Van der Pol. Monique is this wild, red-headed Dutch girl. I fall in love with her and see her a lot, not realizing that he’s sharing her with me. There’s this one evening at my apartment at Hollywood Riviera where she says, you know, I met this older man. I’m so sorry, but I’m spending time with him and I’m going to Chouinard. So is Rick. I wonder about all that, so I drive by the school and look in the door and there’s this character walking out with little round glasses and a bandana around his neck, looking very beatnik-like. The surf scene was very beatnik-like. So I said, wow, that’s a good place to go. After these clean surfing scenes, in their transition, they’re just starting drugs in Laguna. It’s just starting there in like 1963/64. They’re just starting to smoke. There was this house at the bottom of my street where these characters … the doors were always open, and there’s cars in front of it, and these various surfers were going in there and smoking pot. The three guys who were in there are jazz musicians so its all part of the merger … surfers loved jazz and flamenco guitar and folk music and much more Hawaiian music. [After starting at Capitol Records, I go] to San Francisco. I meet with Rick, and he’s with [Victor] Moscoso. We’re in the back of the Avalon Ballroom, backstage, with the Grateful Dead onstage. They say, you should move up here, John. This is the scene. I said, well, you know, I’m so well established down there I don’t know if I’m going to do that. So I came back the next morning and fell out of bed and said, Pinnacle. I think we’re going to do these shows.

EB: How did you come up with the name Pinnacle?

JVH: A part of graphic design is naming. You get about six or seven names that come to mind and try to figure out which one would work. Acme, or happening. Pinnacle meant high places, so getting high was the whole event around Pinnacle [laughs].

EB: When I see this graphic of the three Pinnacle posters stacked atop one another it makes me wonder if you actually ever did that physically with the posters in the ‘60s? Link them up?

JVH: It was made that way.

EB: Did you do that, really, on your wall?

JVH: It was conceived to do that. Again, Pinnacle, getting higher, higher.

EB: As you sat down to conceptualize a poster for Pinnacle, what was your process? How did you get into it? What were you thinking about? What was around you? How did you decide what a poster would actually look like?

JVH: I was with my girlfriend and her mother in Chinatown and that was probably in ’67. On a telephone pole was a poster by Moscoso of this couple dancing. You know that one? And I’m like, wow, this is really amazing. Life Magazine, Peter Max, all these things hit the media, so I see all that. When I approached it, I said, well, I’m going to look at this from a point of view where – at Capitol I’ve learned about all these different manufacturers: printers, stat places, typography, warping things and this and that. I’m going to take that technology and bring it into this poster called Electric Wonders. The Magical Mystery Tour type is warped in a half curve, so I can do the same thing on the poster. Those were going on at the same time. The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour was right ahead of the poster. The Magical Mystery Tour comes out in November, so I’m finished with it in August. We start Pinnacle from August to September. During that time, I’m saying, well I’ll arrange it this way. I had been to a number of Love-Ins. I always carried a camera with me. I had these beautiful characters going across the park. [In] the photograph, that might be Honeya’s hand holding the pencil. Then I went downtown and shot the building and combined them.

John Van Hamersveld, Electric Wonders (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, November 10-11, 1967), lithograph, 1967. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.
John Van Hamersveld, Electric Wonders (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, November 10-11, 1967), lithograph, 1967. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.

EB: What about this grid? Because when I see this…

JVH: This grid is kind of from [Bob] Fried.

EB: That’s what I was going to say. You talk about Moscoso and Griffin, but this to me looks so much like Fried. Were you collaborating with him?

JVH: Later I collaborated with him on the Pink Floyd poster for Pinnacle. Fried has paintings like this, with these little ovals. Almost the same thing that a Japanese sunburst does.

EB: That brings up a question I’ve been thinking about, which is how your work—or how you think your work—differs from what was going on in San Francisco. I think your posters have a different kind of sensibility.

JVH: Right. Because I’m experimenting, and they’re trying to be artists building upon their own art. I’m not concerned with that necessarily. So that [points to Traffic poster] is having had acid and seeing this kind of translucent, multi-layered illusion and being sick at the same time. It was weird [laughs]. I’d been dosed by the Brotherhood. Tom Otto gave me a ginseng root that had been soaked in acid [laughs]. I had forbidden myself from that drug, and there I was, all the sudden, mixed up in it. So that’s really what came out of it. Honeya’s girlfriend Stevie posed nude for me on the studio floor, so I was able to make this alphabet out of it. I just thought about it, and had the different angles that she was in and then assembled those into the typography. The Indian came before and it’s this aluminum kind of illusion. The Hall as the place, and the automobile floating in it, and the girl. It all hooks together.

John Van Hamersveld, Traffic (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, March 29-30 ), lithograph, 18 x 25 in., 1968. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.
John Van Hamersveld, Traffic (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, March 29-30, 1968), lithograph, 18 x 25 in., 1968. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.

EB: You’ve used the word dimensional, and that to me is one of the biggest differences between your work and the San Francisco work, which feels so flat …

JVH: Flat.

EB: … to me. Because of the surface decoration there’s no depth. I really see in your work this kind of dimensionality.

JVH: Well it’s from the drawing. A part of Art Center was you draw in the round, being able to see everything from the back and the front, to be able to visualize it as a volume. Then you went to another class which was a perspective class, and the perspective class got into one-point, two-point, and all the sudden three-point, like cubes floating in space. In the vernacular or in the study or in the unconscious memory all that stuff is built in. It’s like a computer. It’s just how you use it. Maybe Moscoso and Fried and didn’t take that, or maybe Fried did because he did use a little bit of depth in his stuff.

EB: That brings me to the question of how you actually produced these. You mentioned drawings. Did you make several drawings for each Pinnacle poster? How did that process work?

JVH: Sometimes there was a drawing. The drawing really comes, again, with Rick Griffin. On the visits, Moscoso would be there. Now Moscoso’s like nine years older than Rick. They’re working on Zap Comic Books at that time. I was drawing with them, with Rick, and you can see my dimensional quality. And I, in a sense, did a spoof on them, and made up my own poster ad that went through the underground. I was making ads like this [points to Who poster]. You can see the perspective, the flatness or the line resolution, and the cartoon—there’s depth in that, as well.

John Van Hamersveld, Who (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, June 28-29, 1968), lithograph, 1968. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.
John Van Hamersveld, Who (Pinnacle Productions, Shrine Exposition Hall, Los Angeles, June 28-29, 1968), lithograph, 1968. Image courtesy John Van Hamersveld.

EB: For example, for the Traffic poster or the Indian poster, what did you actually give to the printer? Was that a totally complete design—was it hand-colored when you gave it to the printer?

JVH: Not hand-colored, no. There was a hand-colored tissue over the top to tell where various things were in color. But it was line photographs and line grids, where I had hand-cut all that stuff. This is all hand cut in three layers, three colors. The paper going through the press then combines it all.

EB: Are these posters offset lithographs?

JVH: Yeah, lithographs. They had a really nice one-color press I’d use when I was at Capitol. These two guys who ran Stat House would come over and say, why don’t you come to lunch? So we’d go to lunch and then we’d go over to the plant and look at the press. I was just delighted. So I’m having them do stats for me back and forth from Capitol Records. Then I said: why don’t we do a poster? Why don’t we print a poster? So that’s where it started, with the first one, Electric Wonders. They said, boy, how do you do this? You have all these different layers, you have to combine all this film and stripping and everything into these four plates. So they were delighted to see somebody thinking and working that way.

EB: These were printed where?

JVH: These are printed at Ad Print on Fairfax.

EB: Did you authorize a certain number of prints in the run? How many did you usually make?

JVH: Yeah. There were usually 2400.

EB: Were there secondary runs? Because sometimes you see that.

JVH: On the Hendrix there’s a second run. And on the Indian. [In] 1967 [I got] a phone call from a guy who was distributing it [the Endless Summer poster] to colleges across America. He flew out here a couple of times and would meet with me. The first time he and his wife just went nuts over me and said we’ll catch up with you. They came back again and said okay, we’ll help you distribute these. We’ll pay you to have 3500 each. And there were like four or five posters that they printed at Ad Print. Those went back to New York. They were shipped to New York. Pinnacle Posters goes to the world along with the Endless Summer, which is different from [the] San Francisco [posters, which] only go to San Francisco and then over to Colorado but don’t go on the big mainframe of distribution across the country with Peter Max.

EB: So this couple took about five of your Pinnacle posters with the Endless Summer and distributed them?

JVH: Yeah. Martin Geisler and his wife.

EB: Once you got these posters, how did distribution work in LA? What did you do with them?

JVH: I just went to see them in the stores. Everything came from my desk. Distribution is another world that takes it and prints it and sends it somewhere. Distribution was meeting Geisler, an actual distributor, and him giving me money at times when I’m going back and forth from New York to Europe and back to LA. That was the first time we really met somebody like that. When I would do the newspaper ads, they would just go over to the Free Press and they were printed and distributed everywhere.

EB: So you could see your poster designs either as an actual poster, which you could buy somewhere, in a record shop or a head shop or something, or you could see it in the newspaper, right? Were those the only two forms?

JVH: Yeah. I’m printing and distributing.

EB: Were these posters ever used as advertisements around town?

JVH: The posters that were done for the actual shows went onto telephone poles. They were distributed that way.

EB: Who did that legwork?

JVH: There was a gang of probably ten or twelve of them that would do it. Then there would be the head shops—the bundles would come in.

EB: How much would one of these posters have cost in 1967 or ’68?

JVH: Two dollars.

EB: And how much did it cost to buy a ticket to go to a concert?

JVH: Three-fifty.

EB: Were these posters collected then?

JVH: I’m going to say yes, they were collected.

EB: Did you keep an archive for yourself of a poster or two?

JVH: I had a lot of that going but then it was stolen, you know. The first round, probably in ’69—the garage was wiped out by kids. But then later I had a marriage and then I lost it there as well. So we started [a] new [collection] in 2005. We re-printed a lot of things. I have 20,000 of these [Hendrix posters].

EB: Are they the same size?

JVH: Yeah, everything’s the same. It’s the fourth edition.

EB: I do have a few questions about influences—is it okay if we go back to that? I wanted to ask you about Push Pin in New York. In your Drawing Attention book, you talk about going to New York to be represented by Push Pin.

JVH: Yeah, right. It was in admiration of what my drawings had become.

EB: Did you meet Chwast then?

JVH. Yeah. I met Seymour Chwast then. He and Paula came over to the Chapman Park Studio in ’74. They were in Beverly Hills. Milton [Glaser], I met him in 1971 or 1972 because of the record business. He was a friend of Bob Cato, and Bob Cato had him come out and do a talk in LA through the Art Directors Club.

EB: The other person I wanted to ask you about is Lorser Feitelson, because he was your teacher.

JVH: Yeah, Lorser Feitelson. He was my art history teacher. What an interesting guy. He was almost like a guy in a cape and a hat, spitting out these Italian names. RAPHAEL! DA VINCI! But also he was part of that design school.

EB: Did his work have an influence on you, or just his teaching?

JVH: I would see it at the museum.

EB: The Abstract Classicist stuff?

JVH: The simple curve. Ironically, this studio I’m in, 1967/68, is where Feitelson, [Frederick] Hammersley, [Jules] Langsner all meet in this room about modernism. This is the building that Langsner, the art critic of LA … I rented it from his widow.

EB: Did you know that going in?

JVH: No, I didn’t know that. I learned it later. Hammersley was in the garage and going to Chouinard, or teaching at Chouinard or something like that. So there’s the whole minimal school. But the minimal school is at Art Center in 1961/62 when I’m there. In 1964, the Endless Summer comes out of that, that modernist…

EB: Was Feitelson your primary art history teacher, then?

JVH: Yes.

EB: Did you have others?

JVH: No, because I was only there for two semesters.

EB: And the last question about influences is that Warhol comes up a lot. You talk about him, we’ve talked about him today. And, like my question about Kaprow—I mean of course Warhol had his first show in LA in ’62. How were you seeing his work?

JVH: Yeah, I met him in the fall of 1966. In 1964 … Down the street from my studio in Hollywood Riviera, Torrance, there’s this other kind of beatnik, ballheaded guy and his wife. We started sharing Art in America magazines together and talking about it. He says, did you see this? And there’s Andy Warhol with a silver face. As I went, probably a year and a half later, into Chouinard, I’m going to the underground movies. While I’m in Chouinard, there’s a guy who comes in from Andy Warhol’s studio. Buffy Phelps, who was at the New York Factory, comes to SC to become a filmmaker. He’s in the film school with Caleb Deschanel. He’s always talking about Warhol. This, that, Warhol. Warhol, Warhol. We’re all going out to the movies and looking at Warhol’s movies. And then he’s in the trades and he’s everywhere. Through Chouinard we’re going out to Pasadena to see Lichtenstein and Warhol. When I get this job in ’66 I see Warhol down from the second story down in the alley, and he’s coming out of the back door of the Ferus. Then you go through the front of it and you see, at that particular time, it was the pillows. Sepp had been in the Warhol studio for a couple months during the summer with this guy Wolford. When he came back, he came back with all the stories. He came back with Edie Sedgwick. They brought her across the country because Andy just felt she had to get out of the scene. They were trying to park her back at home at Santa Barbara. The Love-Ins are going on, and the Doors, and Jimi Hendrix. And all this stuff is fantastic, you know. It was a movie going by for a good six years.

EB: Did you see Warhol’s films at Cinematheque 16? Where were they screened?

JVH: On Western. That was the Cinema Theater on Western. The Cinematheque came later.

EB: Did you ever go there?

JVH: I went there. That was later, in the ’70s. It was on Sunset. It was this little place, this little theater. Very tiny. The Western one was large, so it would take like 500 kids. You’d see all the underground films together. Anybody who was in the movie business said, god, alternative theaters—what’s this all about? Within New York, those guys figured it out—how to create these independent movie houses that would run this kind of content where you couldn’t run it anywhere else. [In LA] you had Cinerama and all these big theaters on Hollywood Boulevard. And you had the drive-in theaters. So that was an entirely different distribution system.

EB: Did you see the Warhol show at Ferus in ’62 of the soup cans?

JVH: Yeah, a couple of them actually. Three or four of them. Yeah, because there was a party there. I saw the Elvis there. I saw the cans and the paper. I was working at Northrup and there was a photograph in the LA Times. One of the older guys said, hey, did you see this? Warhol, painting cans. There’s hope!

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