MINNEAPOLIS, June 10 2015—The Walker Art Center is pleased to present Hippie
Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, a traveling exhibition that examines the
intersections of art, architecture, and design of the counterculture of the 1960s
and early 1970s on view October 24, 2015 through February 28, 2016 in Galleries
1, 2, 3, and the Perlman Gallery.
Organized by the Walker with the assistance of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the exhibition charts the evolution of one of the most fertile periods of recent cultural history that witnessed a variety of radical experiments that
challenged convention, overturned traditional hierarchies, explored new media
and materials, and formed alternative communities with new ways of living and
working together. Many artists, architects, and designers began a search for a new
kind of utopia—technical, ecological, political—and with it offered a critique of
Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia also considers how the counterculture of
the period, once dismissed as both a social and aesthetic failure, embraced many
artistic themes and ideas that persist today, including ecological awareness, social
practice, and audience participation. It also resonates in a plethora of today’s
social arenas, whether the resurgent interest in yoga and spirituality, organic
foods, local agriculture, marijuana legalization, climate change, alternative energy,
or social protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, to
name a few.
“It’s difficult to identify another period of history that has exerted more influence
on contemporary culture and politics,” said Andrew Blauvelt, the exhibition
curator and Walker Senior Curator of Research, Design and Publishing. “By evoking
the term ‘hippie modernism,’ we highlight the creative revolution that challenged
exhausted forms of late modern culture and the alienation of advanced industrial
society.” Blauvelt continues, “Much of what was produced in the creation of
various countercultures did not conform to the traditional definitions of art—and
thus it has largely been ignored in official histories of art, architecture, and design.
This exhibition and book seeks to redress this oversight.”
Loosely assembled around Timothy Leary’s famous mantra, “Turn On, Tune In,
Drop Out,” Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia features a variety of art
forms and artifacts, from experimental furniture to alternative living
structures, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines,
experimental books, printed ephemera, and archival films.
Section 1: Turning On
The first section explores the notion of expanding individual consciousness
through altered states of perception, whether through pharmacological or
technological means. Works include the meditative film work of Jordon Belson; the
transcendental paintings of the USCO collective; Bruce Conner’s proto-music
video, BREAKAWAY; and conceptual work of radical architectural groups such as
Haus-Rucker-Co, Archigram, and Ant Farm.
Section 2: Tuning In
The second section explores the notion of social awareness and collective
consciousness and action with particular attention paid to the role of books,
magazines, posters, and prints as democratic modes of cultural production that
helped connect and form new networks of like-minded individuals. Works include
Ken Isaac’s pioneering The Knowledge Box (1962/2009), a room-size chamber
where one is immersed in a montage of projected images culled from popular
press; the graphics designed by Emory Douglas created for the Black Panthers
newspaper; and the silk-screened prints of Corita Kent.
Section 3: Dropping Out
The final section addresses the refusal to participate in the given structures of
normative society and the dissolution of boundaries between art and life, culture
and politics. Included in this section are pioneering eco-artists Newton and Helen
Mayer Harrison’s Portable Orchard (1972/2015), an installation of citrus trees
grown under artificial lighting; Evelyn Roth’s living structures and clothing made
from recycled wool; and a recreation of a dome by the Drop City collective, which
housed their Ultimate Painting of 1968.
Conceptually bracketed between Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster’s crosscountry
acid trip of 1964 and the OPEC oil crisis of 1974, which brought into
dramatic relief the limits of Western society’s progress, the exhibition explores
one of the most vibrant and inventive periods of the not-too-distant past, one that
still resonates with culture today.
Following the Walker’s presentation, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia
will travel to the Cranbrook Art Museum and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.
Curator: Andrew Blauvelt, Senior Curator, Design, Research, and Publishing
The catalogue Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia accompanying the
exhibition examines forms of art, architecture, and design that emerged during the
1960s and early 1970s counterculture. In this publication scholars examine a range of practices, such as: radical architectural and anti-design movements emerging
from Europe and its North American counterparts; the print revolution in the
experimental graphic design of the era’s books, posters, and magazines; and a new
forms of cultural practice that merged street theater and radical politics. Through
a profusion of illustrations, interviews with select artists, and new scholarly
writings, this publication explores the hybrid conjunction of hippie ethos and the
modernist desire to fuse art and life. Distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art
Publishers; 456 pages; $55.
Friday, October 23
9 pm – 12 am
$30 ($25 Walker members)
Get a sneak peek of the exhibition before it opens to the public and celebrate the
opening with cocktails and complimentary small bites, art activities for adults, a
photo booth, and music.
Hippie Modernism: Free School
October 2015 – February 2016
Organized in collaboration with local scholars, artists, activists, and participants of
the local 1960s countercultural scene, an ongoing Free School series of
multidisciplinary events on Target Free Thursday Nights at the Walker and offsite
locations will be announced. Attendees will explore contemporary issues and
topics that have continued to permeate culture since the Sixties—such as civil
rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, D.I.Y. and local food movements, and more—
and their historical linkage to the counterculture era. Visit walkerart.org for
information as it’s announced.
Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia is organized by the Walker Art Center.
The exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Martin and Brown
Foundation and Audrey and Zygi Wilf. Support for the exhibition catalogue is
provided by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Walker
Art Center publications. Media partner Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.