Explosion (Jimi Hendrix); 1967
This week’s artwork is inspired by my recent viewing of HAIR and my general obsession with the visual culture of the 1960s (oh, and Jimi Hendrix).
1967 was the Summer of Love and California’s Bay Area was its epicenter. 100,000 hippies wore flowers in their hair and converged on San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to find somebody to love, to practice political dissension, to trip on LSD and pass some joints, to groove out to folk singers and acid rockers alike. People realized Life was a multi-sensory experience. Psychedelia shaped the late 1960s visual world. Musicians were gods and music (enhanced by a few hallucinogens) was a conduit to higher planes of consciousness. By 1967, a counter-culture became the definitive culture.
Perhaps my favorite visual relics from the 1960s are concert posters. Ineffective as advertisements (seriously, you have to spend 10 minutes deciphering the lettering) but stunning as art works, they combined the sinuous curves of art nouveau with the bold colors and the ephemeral of psychedelic experiences. Martin Sharp, an Australian who made his way to the Euro hippie center of London, was an iconic designer and artist in the late 1960s (he did several album covers for Cream). Sharp’s “Explosion” captures the color, vision, feel, and sound of 1967. Hendrix was a phenomenon in his day — 20th century rock’s virtuoso — and 1967 was the year of his famous appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Sharp used a photo of Hendrix by Linda Eastman (later, Linda McCartney) as the base for his poster. To capture the raw emotion of his subject’s performance, he dissolves the image into bursts of electric colors. Sound becomes color and Jimi Hendrix becomes an experience.