March 2009 Archives

Tuning in to the Psychedelic

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DENVER - I'm laughing, walking through Psychedelic Experience that opened March 21 and runs through July 21, 2009 at the Denver Art Museum. Here were posters, essentially ads, for all the sneaky, rebellious stuff we used to do hanging in the Denver Art Museum. And me too. Hanging out in the Art Museum. The current show in the big temporary, contemporary gallery of the DAM is the work of guys making posters for Bill Graham, concert promoter for the Grateful Dead, Santana and others.

I'd just bought a ticket from a young woman who wouldn't credit her parents for being full hippies. I wondered what gave a person real cred in that realm. Dropping acid, making art, doing the light show at concerts, making music, stealing cool images and making posters, bra burning, protesting, just having long hair?

The last time I was in this big gallery in the new Hamilton Addition to the museum - where you feel like you're inside an origami crane - the show was German painter Daniel Richter. His big paintings of organically amorphous figures and dangerous, graffiti-covered unreal places trying to be edgy pushed me away from the walls. Standing back I like the feeling I had that someone was standing in each one of them, and yelling at me, slurring.

My criticism of the Richter paintings -- busy and bright and reminding me of the shameless advertising of the psychedelic posters that I spent so much of my youth staring at while listening to the Grateful Dead, et al.

So today, I'm being drawn to those same folded-walls looking at posters from 1965 to 1971 from San Francisco. I laugh and think about someone writing a saying on the wall that says - there was a secret, cryptic language on the posters that told you there was going to be acid in the Kool-Aid.

Did old acid trips flash back to me at that moment? No, but my companion did remind me how light shows were made, and later we were able to go into an adjacent gallery and make a light show with a clear dish, colored water and oil and an opaque projector. I guess I can always still hear the music that went with those trips. But what I started seeing in my mind's eye was the equipment I used to use at art school - the Rapidograph for drawing and making new typography. Or rubbing Lettraset on a layout board. Taking that scrubbed white board with the little blue layout lines to the camera to make the negative for the printing press and then later the smell of real ink.

Then my companion and I really got to the issue of the day. The price of concerts was $2 to $4. The price of a car has ten times since 1971 --- how about the price of a concert?  I wouldn't pay to see Sting because it was more than $100. Twenty-five to 50 times the price of a concert Bill Graham was advertising. The price of graphic design? Has it doubled since 1971. These artists were paid $100 per poster. Would you pay $1000 today, or would you ask a high school kid, or a friend of a friend to design it, or hold a competition and give the winner 50 bucks? And where are the really cool posters today?  We compared a ticket from a concert in this exhibition with the one that had been printed for us to enter this show. Boring. No wonder kids are slopping spray paint everywhere. There's no place for real graphic design. The DAM tickets are the same as the ones that were printed when the new wing of the museum opened. Whatever happened to the Handmade Revolution we started back in the day? I think it went away like Women's Liberation, and Free Love.

Terry Talty is the Art Tourist who lives the Psychedelic Experience .

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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