Detail of Startling Art book cover by Dennis Larkins
Dennis Larkins' staggering output of artwork ranges from "lowbrow" pop surrealism paintings to stage design for rock concerts to his legendary series of Grateful Dead posters.
'Startling Art' book cover by Dennis Larkins
His newly released "Startling Art: Revealing the Art of Dennis Larkins" (2010, Last Gasp) is a wickedly fun romp through four decades of his unique, retro-kitsch mix of audacious archetypes, savvy satire and engaging images of vintage paraphernalia.
Bone Boy/Bone Toy by Dennis Larkins
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
If your elementary school education included diving under your desk for "duck and cover" drills, you'll feel right at home in Larkins' Atomic Age world of shiny-faced salesmen, high-heeled housewives, and vehicles of mass attraction.
His humor slithers along the scale from light to dark as he breathes mature life into his growing-up-in-the-50's visions. Vintage trains, planes, and automobiles join flying saucers, little green men, skeletons and explosives in his sci-fi- and pulp- inspired settings.
Grateful Dead Poster: Radio City Music Hall Illus. by Dennis Larkins by c. D. Larkins/P. Barsotti/GDP used with permission
Grateful for the Dead
Early in his career, Larkins was in the right place at the right time to be invited to create artwork for the Grateful Dead, including his well known--and now, highly collectible--Grateful Dead Radio City Poster (1980). Among the other art Larkins created for the group is the "Dead Set" album cover. The front of the cover featured Larkins' iconic Grateful Dead skeleton, Sam, surveying the Golden Gate Bridge; the back of the cover showed his counterpart, Samantha, looking over the Manhattan skyline.
Dead Set Album Cover (front) designed by Dennis Larkins
Dead Set album art 1981 illus. by Dennis Larkins, c. GDP by Dennis Larkins
When the New York Historical Society mounted a Grateful Dead show in early 2010, they commissioned Larkins to design their poster, 35 years after creating his first artwork for the group.
The Yin and The Yang of It All: Opera by Day, Rock by Night
Painting sets for the San Francisco Opera was his day job, but Larkins moonlighted as designer and scenic artist for promoter, Bill Graham's famed "Day on the Green" (D.O.G.) music festivals, pioneering revolutionary rock stage sets.