1967: Art at the Crossroads

Psychedelic Soul

I have quotes from two reviews:

1. Holland Cotter, NYT: “Apart from Hendrix’s presence, the show is overwhelmingly white. Aretha Franklin’s first big hits — ‘Respect,’ ‘Chain of Fools’ and ‘Natural Woman’ — were all 1967. You won’t find her here. Nor will you find Marvin, or Smokey, or Otis, or Fontella or Ray.”

2. Jerry Saltz, New York Mag: “On hand are record jackets from Country Joe & the Fish, but none from Aretha or Sly and the Family Stone. The show is so vapidly vanilla—visitors drift through it as if in a mall—that with any luck the legions of contemporary artists who romanticize and glorify the period will finally move on.”

Once and it’s a noteworthy point; twice and it’s troubling. I understand the unease—the Summer of Love was such an overpowering media presence that it drowned out everything else, and there was much more going on then than flower power. An exhibition devoted to late ’60s African-American culture and the art surrounding soul music would no question be more enlightening than another retread of this familiar material. Detroit, Memphis, and LA as the organizing principle in place of Summer of Love’s San Francisco-New York-London.

But it’s equally valid to say that for all the exposure, we don’t really understand yet what was happening in the anti-war hippie culture of the late ’60s, and that’s what this show purports to examine. It’s not intended to be a portrait of everything that happened in 1967. When the late Robert Rosenblum organized 1900: Art at the Crossroads, it was the first time most museum goers realized there was more going on at the turn of the century than post-Impressionism. Before then, it would have been a single-minded art critic who responded to a post-Impressionist show by asking where were the Bouguereaus?

Bouguereau

Or how about a closer example in time: for the next show that focuses on Post-Minimalism, heyday smack in the late-60s (but not in the SoL show), let’s have reviewers question the canonical roll-out of white New Yorkers to the exclusion of, say, L.A. artists like Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, whose assemblages collected after the Watts riots both resembled the look of their east coast counterparts and responded more emotionally and constructively to their times.

Another take on the decade and its influence: Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Afro-Punk festival

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