Psychedelic Art Essay

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Mark Nara on the intention, spiritual practice, and ancient art form of marking skin, function over fashion, traditional artistic expression through tattooing in various cultures, life level-ups via connection to the sacred, and in the nearly hour long extension for patrons, deeper esoteric and magical aspects of tattooing, coded art, and Niles' idea for a tattoo motivated from his galactivation.

‘Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era,” the Whitney Museum’s 40th-anniversary trip down counterculture memory lane, provides moments of buzzy fun, but it’ll leave you only comfortably numb.

I liked that “Motorcycle” traced the formal development of a single sexy industrial type. Of course, being neither stoned nor beautiful isn’t any reason to get medieval on “Summer of Love’s” ass.

It’s a summer show, after all, and it does look into a picturesque aesthetic that exerts an influence on the current moment.

The problem is that the guest curator, Christoph Grunenberg, from Tate Liverpool (where the exhibition originated in 2005) makes a number of sweeping, bogus claims.

Yes, the sixties gave us the Pill, sexual liberation, and Vietnam, but Grunenberg’s essay is so overstated and self-serving that it can make you wonder if baby-boomers are ever going to get over themselves.

Take the ark-master Sun Ra, the musician who in the late sixties was journeying into ornately funky, freaky-deaky sonic dimensions.

Or the late, great psychedelic alchemist trip-master Terence Mc Kenna, who rhapsodized about magic mushrooms, the collective over soul, gathering eminences, star ships, microbial creatures, membranes of inexplicable love, transcendental dramas, and birthing the self.

Yet Grunenberg misrepresents people like Lucas Samaras and Andy Warhol as “psychedelic artists.” Warhol may have invented the psychedelic palette and produced his own light show, but he and his crowd were notoriously anti-flower-child. As Hickey recently quoted Lou Reed, “I’d rather be found dead in some bathroom stall with a spike in my arm than share spit [on a joint] with some hippie.” The highs of this show are probably the pulsating films of James Whitney and the great Jordan Belson, and the light shows of Thomas Wilfred and Joshua White.

The installation by designer Verner Panton is cool, too. The late sixties were supposedly out of control, but the psychedelic style is maniacally controlling—every area of every poster is hypermanaged.


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