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How 1960s Psychedelic Art Reflected Social Climate
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How 1960s Psychedelic Art Reflected Social Climate

1960s psychedelic art reflected our social climate in many ways. You must first understand that a new generation was renouncing the mainstream culture. New ideals, new freedoms, questioning authority and strict rules we lived by in the 1950s. You could say the 50's were like a black and white movie and the 60's were in full technicolor. The counterculture will be head strong in replacing old values with new ones.

What is "Psychedelic" and Where Did it Come From?

Part of repudiating the mainstream would be replacing the accepted social drug of alcohol for more "mind expanding" substances. The term psychedelic was first used in 1956 by psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond. It comes from the Greek meaning “mind–manifesting”.

There are plenty of organic psycho-active plants in nature that can produce such experiences. (Many times used in religious ceremonies since 1000 B.C.) There were also many government studies done on psychosis testing Lysergic Acid Diethylmide (LSD) as a possible cure.

Ken Kesey and "The Merry Pranksters"

The author Ken Kesey was a volunteer of the studies mentioned above.He formed a traveling commune named “The Merry Pranksters”. The pranksters were other artists, authors, friends and beatniks from the beat generation. They drove a bus named “Further” painted in 1960s psychedelic art work.

Fueled on acid they drove from coast to coast making stops with an almost circus like atmosphere. This was such an event, Tom Wolf authored a book called "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" - An American classic" (Newsweek).

Poster Artists and The Counterculture

In the San Francisco area there were many venues promoting spectacular musical events such as the Avalon ballroom, the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West (just to mention a few). In the 1960s psychedelic art was prominent and fashionable on most posters, handbills, postcards advertising these events. There may have even been competition among the artists to see who could create the most far out illegible piece.

Also, there were many other social events like the "Human Be In"and "Summer Of Love", etc., that were immortalized by 1960s psychedelic art posters as well. psychedelic art was everywhere. You could see it in adverting, fashion, movies. Even John Lennon's Rolls Royce and Janis Joplin's Porsche were painted in psychedelic art - seen in the pages of LIFE magazine.

So, the hippie movement or counterculture left some indelible marks in our history. Many freedoms and rights that we take for granted today. The artwork through this time was bold, graphically challenging and brilliantly colored. It expressed the way many thought which was going outside the box to reach for answers.


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