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3 days of peace and music

More than 3,500 Woodstock works donated to SAMA

American graphic design of the modern era is the focus of “50 Years of Woodstock: Posters from the Mark Del Costello Collection,” at the Altoona gallery of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

On display through April 18, the exhibit features posters and ephemera related to a wide variety of topics such as music, theater, film, visual arts, product advertising and political issues.

Among the highlights are posters, money, programs and more from Woodstock, a pop cultural and musical milestone celebrating its 50th anniversary. Woodstock began as “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music” in 1969 at a dairy farm in New York.

Del Costello, 70, lives in southern New Jersey and is a retired photographer, concert producer and film historian. A former professor in the Film Department at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. He also served as personal assistant to director Martin Scorcese on the set of “Raging Bull.”

Del Costello graduated from Saint Francis University in 1972 with a degree in history. He first donated 400 items in 1985 and, within the past year, donated an additional 3,151 items to SAMA, much of it still being painstakingly processed by Beverly Hartnett at the Loretto headquarters, according to Barbara Hollander, Altoona site coordinator.

The donations make SAMA “one of the largest repositories of poster art in the U.S., and maybe even the world,” Hollander said.

“The Sixties Generation declared a cultural revolution and, flawed and imperfect as it might have been, it was a revolution, especially in the realm of the arts, and especially in the music and visual imagery that went with it,” said Jerry Zolten, professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Integrative Arts at Penn State Altoona. Zolten is to speak about the Del Costello collection at an upcoming SAMA event.

“As a younger person (25), I feel that this collection captures a time period that the world might never experience again,” said Neil Young, curatorial assistant. “The revolution happening in the late ’60’s with rock and roll, birth control for women, and the Vietnam war all contributed to one of the most important concerts in history.”

A few pieces of Del Costello’s collection have been exhibited before, but the Altoona exhibit and subsequent showings consist predominantly of previously unexhibited items.

The collection features outstanding earlier works by renowned illustrators Howard Chandler Christy and Norman Rockwell. Other noteworthy artists include Saul Bass, Paul Davis, David Lance Goines, Edward Gorey, Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouse.

“The Del Costello collection,” Zolten said, “is a glorious full-frontal in-your-face visual representation of the day-glo colors, psychedelic images, and fantastically contorted lettering, all in the name of advertising the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of the day. Although we may not have understood the full import of it at the time, the Woodstock Festival has emerged as a meme for the era. And, in fact, among those on display is Arnold Skolnick’s iconic bright red poster, a white dove perched on a guitar neck standing out in high relief along with the words in white “Days, Peace, Music,” pretty much saying it all.”

In addition to speaking about Del Costello’s collection, Zolten said he will share his own experiences which include opening for Janis Joplin, conversations he’s had with Graham Nash and Country Joe of the Fish about performing at Woodstock and his close friendship with cartoonist Robert “Keep On Truckin'” Crumb, one of the most influential “underground” artists of the time.

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