Rick Griffin Retrospective Draws Nearly 1000 On Opening Night

The opening of Heart and Torch – Rick Griffin’s Transcendence drew nearly 1000 people to the Laguna Art Museum last Saturday night, June 23, according to Bolton Coleburn, the museum’s director.

“I think everyone that’s alive and breathing should see this. It’s high time that this stuff was recognized as fine art.”

Click here to see exclusive footage of Griffin from Pacific vibrations

Tod Clayton, Griffin’s son-in-law says the family was completely blown away by amount of people attending. “On the way down there I just kept telling them how big it was going to be and they just didn’t understand,” he says. “They were just rocked!”

From hipsters to die-hards, industry heavyweights to pro surfers, the crowd was eclectic. Rob Machado, Pat O’Connell, Stacy Peralta, The X-Files‘s Chris Carter and Dominic Purcell of TV’s Prison Break were among those in attendance, but despite the mixed crowd, everyone bonded over the influential work of Rick Griffin.

“It obviously started with SURFER magazine,” says Clayton, “and then he did the psychedelic, the comics, and the Christian work, so there’s a whole slew of different people interested in his work.”

Heart and Torch is the first museum retrospective of Griffin’s work and Coleburn says he feels our culture has finally caught up to the point where we can take a look at Griffin and really see his impact.

“I think there are underpinnings to a lot of art that’s being done today that directly references Griffin,” says Coleburn. “A lot of people who don’t know Griffin, probably aren’t aware of his impact until they come and see the show. He laid the terrain, so to speak, in a lot of areas and I think it’s great for people to be aware of that.”

The body of work shows a full range of Griffin’s styles, ranging from his illustration and cartoon work at SURFER Magazine in the ’60s, intricate pen and ink drawings and large Christian-inspired paintings to album covers for the Grateful Dead and psychedelic posters. While much of the work is finished, some pieces include his mistakes or are unfinished altogether. This imperfection gives a fuller sense of Griffin’s process.

“I talked to him all the time about how much he did and how much he wadded up and threw away because it wasn’t right,” Clayton says. “He spent so much time trying to get things perfect.”

According to Clayton, the ’60s style is popping up again in fashion and styles of the younger generation, and we’re tapping into that retro period. “That’s what we’re into,” he says.

Griffin’s work will appeal to a whole new audience as well as those who remember his work from their youth. The show presents a vibrant and colorful experience with variety and a style that many can relate to.

“It’s just amazing work. It’s really heartfelt and you can see everything that he put in to it. My favorite stuff is the surf stuff, but it appeals to everybody,” says Clayton.

“I think everyone that’s alive and breathing should see this. It’s high time that this stuff was recognized as fine art.”

Heart and Torch – Rick Griffin’s Transcendence runs from June 24 to Sept. 30, 2007 at the Laguna Art Museum. Visit www.lagunaartmuseum.org and www.myspace.com/heartandtorch for more information.

--Maggie Scott