Bob Masse

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Canada's foremost rock poster artist, Bob Masse absorbed the influence of the psychedelic era to create eye-popping yet elegantly stylized art nouveau designs distinguished by their fluid linework and…
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Canada's foremost rock poster artist, Bob Masse absorbed the influence of the psychedelic era to create eye-popping yet elegantly stylized art nouveau designs distinguished by their fluid linework and intricate figures. A native of Burnaby, British Columbia, he began drawing as a child, regularly competing against his cousin to determine who could sketch the most images of Bugs Bunny; Mad magazine was also a profound influence, and he copied each new issue from start to finish. As a teen, Masse earned spending money during the holidays by creating cardboard Santas and decorating windows for his neighbors; he later painted pinstripes and flames on cars, even producing Big Daddy Roth-styled monster T-shirts for his school friends.

After graduation, Masse went on to attend art school in Vancouver; a fixture at local coffeehouses, he was eventually tapped to illustrate posters advertising upcoming folk music performances, among them a date by a then unknown Bob Dylan (whose name Masse accidentally misspelled "Dylon"). With the rise of folk-rock, Vancouver played host to concerts from the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Steve Miller Band, with Masse contributing increasingly psychedelicized artwork for their appearances; in 1966, he traveled to San Francisco, with a revelatory journey to the Haight-Ashbury district as well as direct contact with the poster art of the Fillmore and the Family Dog exerting a profound influence on his own subsequent work.

Returning to Vancouver, Masse befriended the local band the Collectors, and when they traveled to Los Angeles to make a record he followed, spending the final years of the 1960s living in the Laurel Canyon area and hanging out with the Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Taj Mahal. As 1969 drew to a close he went back to Vancouver, producing a series of posters for local venues including the Retinal Circus, Moose Valley Farms, and Gassy Jack's; as the 1970s dawned, he turned to commercial work, illustrating for McDonalds, the Expo Space Station, CP Air, and countless others. Masse additionally designed numerous business logos, among them a ubiquitous orange-furred fox for radio station C-FOX that is among his most long-lived and enduring creations.

During the 1980s, Masse's focus turned to Hollywood, as he created posters for smash films including Total Recall and Back to the Future III; he also worked on the television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As rock concert art began to enjoy a surge in popularity during the following decade, however, Masse returned to the medium with renewed force, producing a steady stream of posters for the first time since the 1970s. Creating lush visuals that incorporated the psychedelic spirit of his previous work while at the same capturing the essence of his contemporary subjects, Masse produced memorably beautiful posters advertising appearances by latter-day stars including the Smashing Pumpkins, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tori Amos, and Alanis Morissette.