The late artist Todd Trexler, who as a young man in San Francisco in the 1970s was connected to The Cockettes and became one of the go-to poster artists for their Nocturnal Dream Shows and midnight movie screenings at the Palace Theater, is getting a retrospective of his design work that opens this week at Magnet (4122 18th Street) in the Castro.
The show features a number of pieces that haven't been on display in 40 years, and Trexler had been planning the show since an earlier exhibition in January 2013. Sadly, he passed away suddenly in February of this year, but the show goes on. The official opening reception is on Friday from 7 to 10 p.m., but the posters are on display as of last night.
Trexler was an art student when he first began making the posters around 1968, many of them hand-drawn, and he was a close friend of Sebastian (a.k.a. Milton Miron), one of the gender-bending masterminds behind the Cockettes who had been an assistant to Bill Graham. The Cockettes began performing their underground Nocturnal Dream shows at the Palace in the late 60s, and they became lavish, drug-fueled, musical theater events culminating in classic original productions like Vice Palace and Tricia's Wedding, a mockery of the nuptials of President Nixon's daughter. (For more background, see this documentary.) Todd continued to do work for them for a number of years in the 70s, before moving to Monterey to attend nursing school in 1979.
Only in the last decade had people reached out to him about his poster art, and via this website you can purchase full- and small-size reproductions of many of his posters.
Of the Divine poster above, he told this story:
I absolutely adored working with Glenn on the few occasions that I did! The day that we planned to take photos for the VICE PALACE poster I'll never forget. Glenn and I sat in the back seat of a car with Sebastian in the front. We drove around San Francisco looking for a place to use as a backdrop. We ended up at the Palace of Fine Arts and decided it was perfect! Glenn was in makeup, bib-overalls with the sides split to make them large enough. He had tossed a couple of 50's net prom dresses in the trunk of the car. He slipped into a pair of open-toed backless mules and wrapped the prom dresses around himself and instantly became DIVINE! I took the photo and that poster is an all- time favorite of my poster career.
Below, an interview with Todd from about a year ago.
Magnet - 4122 18th Street near Castro - Open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 9 p.m. Wednesday to Friday. They're closed on Sunday.