The dynamic duo, Irma Soltonovich and Efren Quiroz, plus Martin Bachelor, have done it again. This time it’s psychedelia, symbol of the Sixties. A time of great promise or mass hallucination.
Things happened fast in that decade. Beatniks morphed into Hippies at lightning speed helped along by rock music and the sudden availability of drugs. From San Francisco to London young people were turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. Love and Peace was the mantra of the moment and LSD was the key to the universe opening visions of Shangri La. Nothing was real.
LSD was first made by Albert Hofmann in Switzerland in 1938 from ergot and found to have possibilities as psychiatric medication. The exact mechanism is still not fully understood but it is thought to cause glutamate release in the cerebral cortex i.e. your brain lights up like a pinball machine. The CIA thought it might be useful for mind control and they tested it in the 50s on servicemen and students without their knowledge. Native American mystics had known about peyote for a long time. Aldous Huxley did some mescaline in 1954 and wrote ‘The Doors Of Perception’ based on his experience but it wasn’t until the 1960s that LSD somehow found its way into the counterculture where it proved immensely popular.
Tripping had a spiritual dimension in the beginning. There was an innocence to it. Trips could be good or bad depending on the mental state of the tripper and the quality of the product (stay away from the brown acid). It opened the doors to another world. Some of us thought we could fly. Owsley Stanley, who made the first big batch of acid, was a man on a mission. Timothy Leary, a psychology professor at Harvard, was a big influence. President Nixon called him ‘the most dangerous man in America’. Did the Love Generation represent a sea change or was it just media hype? We still aren’t sure. It certainly broke down a lot of barriers.
San Francisco had Flower Power which was partly a reaction to the Vietnam War. In London it took off mainly in the form of fashion thanks to boutiques and a proliferation of young designers like Ossie Clark.Image became important. As the underground got absorbed into the mainstream Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull became the new pop royalty. Beautiful people were everywhere.
It only lasted a few years. There was the Summer of Love, Haight Ashbury, the Sergeant Pepper album in June of 67 all culminating for many with Woodstock in 69. There was also Altamont (something very funny happens when we start that number), Manson,hard drugs, kids, jobs, mortgages. Sixties turned into Seventies. The Rutles put the lid on it with ‘All You Need Is Cash’. But the memories linger and there seems to be nostalgia for the period whether you were there or not.
Nowadays it’s seen as a period of non-stop sex, drugs and rock and roll and it’s starting to fade into myth like Camelot. Those who actually lived through it, as a few of us older folks did, all have our own memories and perspectives, often quite blurry. For some it was a social revolution for others it was unbridled hedonism. Maybe it was a bit of both.
Psychedelic art took several forms. It first appeared as kaleidoscopic mandalas designed for looking at while stoned. Or you could just watch your own hands pulsating. There were album sleeves and head comics (who can forget Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural and Gilbert Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers?) but it’s the posters that stick in the mind. These were made up of brightly coloured shapes and letters that emulated the visual effects of LSD, often advertising happenings or events. They have become icons of the Sixties and they have obviously inspired a lot of participants in ‘Psychedelia’.
75 artists submitted work to the show so there’s a wide variety of responses and a lot to take in. Some are obviously into the music, some like the art and some clearly enjoy the hallucinogens. So maybe times haven’t changed that much.Who knows…. perhaps some of the participants were being happily conceived around that time and what we’re seeing are the aftereffects? So if you haven’t tripped out lately groove on down to Martin Bachelor Gallery and get your mind blown.
Martin Batchelor gallery
July 29th–Aug. 17th. 2017