Randy Tuten

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The rock poster art of Randy Tuten is among the most skillful and sophisticated work of its kind to emerge from the psychedelic era. While lacking the personal and social resonance common to the output…
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Artist Biography by

The rock poster art of Randy Tuten is among the most skillful and sophisticated work of its kind to emerge from the psychedelic era. While lacking the personal and social resonance common to the output of his contemporaries, his pieces possess a rare sense of craft and clarity grounded firmly in the traditions of classic commercial advertising. A native of San Francisco born September 28, 1946, Tuten was raised in Los Angeles, where his ongoing obsessions throughout childhood remained drawing and surfing. While in high school he enrolled in elective advertising courses, developing the taste for commercial art that influenced his later professional work; he also frequently cut class to attend area gallery shows.

By 1966, Tuten was regularly hitchhiking back and forth between L.A. and San Francisco to attend concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium and the Avalon Ballroom; there he caught his first glimpses of the psychedelic poster designs of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, and their impact ultimately prompted him to relocate to the Bay Area on a permanent basis. Rick Griffin proved an even greater influence, and soon Tuten began work on his own poster designs; after months of rejections from the Avalon's Chet Helms, in early 1969 he brought his portfolio the Fillmore's Bill Graham, who hired him immediately, eventually even installing Tuten as his promotional company's first in-house artist, a job he held for a decade.

Tuten's bold designs typically incorporated images of trains, ships, planes, and classic cars, his mastery as a draftsman heralding a major shift away from the wildly psychedelic work of earlier Fillmore artists like Wes Wilson and Lee Conklin. A prolific talent, he produced posters for the likes of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin, also creating the art for the Band's first-ever headlining live appearance. Even as the Summer of Love drew to a close, Tuten continued generating a steady stream of work, his '70s-era projects including pieces for David Bowie, the Who, and Pink Floyd. Adopting an increasing art deco influence as the years passed, he continued designing new posters into the 1990s, also working in commercial art for corporate clients.