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Houston Freeberg

Part of his extensive collection makes a stop at the Toledo Museum of Art to pay homage to the psychedelic ’60s

The posters he owns include every one produced to advertise rock’s most famous venues, which include San Francisco’s Fillmore and Winterland halls and the Avalon Ballroom; New York’s Fillmore East; and the Monterey Pop Festival.

Freeburg, who retired at 49 from careers in construction and real estate, says every major group of the ’60s visited his hometown of Memphis, and he also saw Otis Redding and all the major soul and R&B acts. But there was a downside. Freeburg attributes his increasing tinnitus to concerts and music in general.

Amy Gilman, the associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Toledo Museum of Art, is moved by the continued impact of rock ’n’ roll concert posters on global art, design, movies and advertising. “The way we portray the 1960s is immediately recognizable when those posters are referenced,” she says. “I don’t believe that there is another single period of graphic arts that has had as much influence on popular culture as these poster artists did, other than the age of Toulouse-Lautrec and the artists of early-20th-century Paris.”

Freeburg says it’s hard to choose his favorite poster, but admits one he especially likes was created by artists Stanley Mouse and his late partner Alton Kelley. It’s their most famous—a skeleton and roses motif for a 1966 Grateful Dead concert. He’s attracted by its artful presentation of the “dichotomy of life and death.”

As for his own collecting habit, Freeburg has expanded his interests to movie posters from the 1930s to 1960. Why? “I basically have every poster that I want in the rock poster area or that I ever will be able to afford.”

Frank McCoy is a writer in Maryland.

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