I’ve never been all that keen on Alan Aldridge‘s brand of psychedelic art but it’s worth noting here the (London) Design Museum retrospective which runs from 10 October to 25 January, 2009. Aldridge’s work as a designer and illustrator for Penguin Books in the Sixties impresses me more than his subsequent illustrated Beatles lyrics and The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast (1973), a pair of books which seemed ubiquitous in the 1970s. Flickr has a decent selection of his book covers which included a run of sf paperbacks in 1967. Ballard’s The Wind from Nowhere is the very slight debut novel which the author prefers to forget. Where Ballard in Penguin is concerned, David Pelham’s work a few years later was a far more suitable match.
Seeing Aldridge honoured with a big retrospective make me wonder why Roger Dean hasn’t yet been given the same accolade. Dean for me is by far the better artist in terms of distinctive and memorable imagery; he’s also a better draughtsman and far more imaginative designer (not to mention having always been a speculative architect). I suspect Dean’s reputation is still blighted by his associations with Yes and the general antipathy which that band’s name generates in a certain middle-aged sector of Britain’s cultural commentariat. Ballard’s name was equally blighted in literary circles by his science fiction associations and it was Barcelona, not London, which honoured him with a major exhibition recently. There may be some home-grown reappraisals in the offing but I won’t hold my breath.