From the Collection: 1960–1969

Mason Williams, Various Artists, Photograph by Max Yavno. Bus (Copy signed by artists from the Word and Image exhibition, 1968). 1967–1968 481

Poster with hand additions, 129 1/2 x 441" (328.9 x 1120.1 cm). Architecture & Design Study Center

Juliet Kinchin: This is the largest poster in The Museum of Modern Art’s collection. It's a Greyhound bus designed by Mason Williams in 1967 and produced as a multiple that people could buy. Williams was playing with scale in this project. This poster was printed on 16 separate sheets, which then had to be taped and pasted together. It took about three days, apparently, to fold one of these items. And of course, once you took it out of the box, it was very difficult to get it back in. The box came marked with a comment: "Dangerous. Do not open in the wind."

This poster is part of an explosion in poster culture. And the Greyhound buses which crisscrossed the United States were also important as an icon of new desegregated forms of low-cost travel. And Greyhound buses in the early '60s had been linked with civil-rights activism - these so-called "freedom rides."

I think you can also see Williams' bus project in the context of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, or Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, who traversed the States in a bus covered with psychedelic graffiti. In this particular copy of the bus poster, the graffiti were applied later. MoMA curator Mildred Constantine decided to turn it into a huge advertisement for the exhibition, Word and Image in 1968. Constantine called in various local artists and designers to graffiti the poster to really transform the object into a new kind of collaborative artwork.

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