Bonnie MacLean

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Bonnie MacLean

(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1939 - )

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The former wife of rock concert promoter Bill Graham (1931-1991), Bonnie MacLean was an important part of Graham’s team presenting concerts during the psychedelic ‘60’s in San Francisco. In addition to performing key administrative duties for Graham, she also created posters advertising Graham’s concerts in 1967 and 1968. MacLean went on to a career as a painter. Born in Philadelphia in 1939, MacLean grew up across the Delaware River in Trenton, N.J. She graduated from the Pennsylvania State University in 1961, majoring in French. After working in New York City at the Pratt Institute and taking evening drawing classes there, she moved to San Francisco in 1963 and was hired by Graham, then a regional manager for the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, as his secretary. They fell in love and began living together. When Graham left his job to become the business manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe (a radical comedy group), MacLean came with him as his assistant. After provoking the arrest of Troupe members for obscenity, Graham organized three successful concerts to raise funds for legal expenses, all with MacLean’s assistance; two were at the Fillmore Auditorium, which Graham had sublet. After organizing the three-day Trips Festival in January 1966, Graham and MacLean continued to organize concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. MacLean handled a variety of administrative matters, including financial matters, scheduling and obtaining permits from the City of San Francisco. The concerts were advertized with posters featuring dramatic images and distorted “psychedelic” lettering, now regarded as outstanding works of art. Initially, the principal poster designer was Wes Wilson (b. 1937). In1967, after poster sales became very profitable, Wilson quit over a dispute over his compensation. MacLean had been creating designs using the distorted lettering featured on the posters on two large blackboards at the Fillmore, one showing the current bands and the other listing the bands playing at the next week’s concert. After Wilson’s departure Graham assigned MacLean the task of designing the posters in addition to her other duties. While initially derivative of Wilson’s style, she went on to develop her own style in the 31 posters she designed. MacLean and Graham married on June 11, 1967, taking advantage of the cancellation of a concert at the Fillmore. They both later described the marriage as an attempt to patch up a troubled relationship. Focused on the new Fillmore East operation in New York City and occupied with a mistress there, Graham did not return to San Francisco to witness the birth of their son David in September 1968, putting further strains on their marriage. Then after discovering Graham was also having an affair in San Francisco, MacLean moved out of their house, taking their son. Graham and MacLean’s divorce became final in 1975. At some point she developed a relationship with the artist Jacques Fabert (1925-2013), lived with him in Northern California and Mexico, and eventually married him. She took classes at the San Francisco Art Institute, the Academy of Art University and the California College of Arts and Crafts. In 1972 MacLean, son David and Fabert moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia, where she still lives. MacLean developed a career as a painter of nudes, still lifes and landscapes. In mid-2015 she was commissioned to create a poster in the style of the 1960s San Francisco rock posters to commemorate the opening of the Fillmore Philadelphia concert hall on October 1, 2015. (TNB 12/2015) Selected bibliography: Darrow, Chuck. “Soon-to-open Fillmore Philadelphia connects with the past through local poster artist Bonnie MacLean,” Philadelphia Sun-Times, August 19, 2105. Glatt, John. Rage & Roll: Bill Graham and the Selling of Rock. Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Pub. Group, 1993. Graham, Bill and Robert Greenfield. Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out. With a new preface by Pete Townshend. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2004. Lemke, Gayle and Jacaeber Kastor. The Art of the Fillmore: The Poster Series 1966-1971. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999. (Pulled from De Young Museum by HER 10/20/17)

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