A new temporary exhibition at the Fort Smith Museum of History features vintage black light poster graphics from the mid-1960s-early 1970s. Art by the People-for the People celebrates the private collection of 1960 Poteau High School graduate and current Poteau resident, Roberta Bell. The exhibition will open in the Boyd Gallery on Thursday, June 20 with a 6:00 pm reception and program with Ms. Bell.
Allan and Roberta Bell Ehrlich published two hundred posters as part of the company, the Third Eye, Inc. in New York City. Allan Ehrlich oversaw sales, booking, and finance. Roberta Bell Ehrlich oversaw product development, marketing, plant layout, and supervised the art department.
Among the artwork on display are fourteen posters designed by Ms. Bell. Also included are Marvel Comics heroes Iron Man and Spider-Man. The Third Eye bought the rights to publish posters and greeting cards of Marvel Comics and distributed the products all across the country. The company also published art from other American creators. The Third Eye was the first company to manufacture and distribute black light posters in New York City.
Originally, in the 1960s and 1970s, the company’s goal was to provide interesting graphics to the general public at an affordable price. The posters sold for $1 each to wholesalers with a retail cost of $2. Today, the vintage posters sell for $500-$1,000 each.
Each color screen for the Third Eye posters were hand cut by highly trained artists employed by the printer at the "in house" art department. The posters were printed in the finest print ships in the United States. The Third Eye's primary printers were in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and Atlanta. Approximately one hundred fluorescent black light reactive posters were produced in die-cut geometric shapes. Fluorescent colors do not mix according to the rules of reflected light. Due to the nature of the pigments, modulating and shading colors can be very difficult.
The Third Eye was a casualty of the 1973 worldwide recession. The recession featured a gas shortage, lost jobs, and inflation. As the economy went into shock, chain stores cancelled orders or put them "on hold" indefinitely. The entire industry, including many printers, collapsed. Paper mills shut down. Artists, advertising agencies, and creative businesses were the first to lose their jobs and businesses. By late 1974, the Third Eye filed bankruptcy.
Roberta Bell Ehrlich was born in Mena, Arkansas, graduated from Poteau High School, and studied silversmithing and painting at the Universities of Mexico City and Kansas.
Experience the brilliant and unique posters displayed in a black light environment.
The exhibit will run through the summer. Ms. Bell will present programs for students.
Check the website for a schedule of programs: www.fsmuseum.org
The exhibit and programs are included with museum admission. ($5-$7)