Sunday, August 7, 2016

EXHIBITIONS: "Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia" at Michigan's Cranbrook Art Museum now, coming to Berkeley in Feb.

Roll up for the mystery tour ...

Jimi Hendrix, 1968, photo by Ira Cohen
All photo credits to the Cranbrook Art Museum, with thanks

For those who are too young to have experienced the freewheeling and hyperpolitical 1960s, or for those who did, but can't remember anything ("If you can remember the 60s, you weren't really there"), Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia provides an illuminating window into that singular era. Currently running at the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, MI (in metro Detroit) and moving to UC Berkeley in February, the exhibition -- which curators say is "loosely organized around Timothy Leary’s famous mantra, 'Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,' ” -- examines the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. 

“Everyone at that moment expected that life in the very near future would be different and better,” said Andrew Blauvelt, new director of Cranbrook Art Museum.Immersive experiences offered a taste or glimpse of that life. Installations were filled with new media like slide projectors, films, video, light, sound, but also wind, scents, elements of nature.”

Clark Richert, view of Drop City "The Complex",
in El Morro, outside Trinidad, CO
 c. 1966
Drop City was a countercultural artists' community in Colorado
inspired by the architectural ideas of Buckminster Fuller and Steve Baer. 
As word about it spread, people came from all over the world to
participate in its experiments with structure, function, environmentalism 
 and communal living. Residents constructed domes and zonohedra 
 (crystal-like shapes ) for shelter, using geometric panels made 
from car roofs and other found materials.
Hippie Modernism focuses on the centrality of design during the ascendancy of hippiedom. It showcases furniture and architecture created to suit the countercultural lifestyle, psychedelic photographs and graphics demonstrating the influence of consciousness-altering drugs, and avant garde films and magazines that both propagandized and informed. Video and music are all utilized in the show with intelligence and good humor.

 Superonda Sofa,
Archizoom Associati, 1966 

 The Superonda was a whimsical, modular piece of furniture
whose undulating form could be configured in several different ways.
According to its designer Andrea Branzi, it was "either a chaise longue, sofa or divan. 
It is a highly interactive design, functioning more as a plaything than as 
a serious seating solution." I wonder how much pot was smoked on these things!

Women in Design: The Next Decade
 Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, 1975

It may be hard to believe now, but there was plenty of misogyny and
sexism within the "progressive" politics of the 60s and early 1970s. ("The only position for women in the movement is prone" was an infamous statement made in 1964 by Stokely Carmichael, on the role of women in the civil rights movement.) This poster would probably
have been considered fairly radical in its time. 

Environment Transformer/Flyhead Helmet, 1968
This attention-grabbing machine/hat was
intended to be "a mind-expansion device, meant to completely 
 change your relationship to your environment—your personal, physical, 
and social world. What’s not to love?" say the designers.

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia 
will be showing at the  
• Cranbrook Art Museum, June 19–October 9, 2016, and at the 
• University of CA, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 
February 8–May 21, 2017. 


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