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What a Trip: Remembering the 1967 Summer of Love

The period is marked by groundbreaking developments in art, fashion, music and politics. Local bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were the progenitors of what would become known as the “San Francisco Sound,” music that found its visual counterpart in creative industries that sprang up throughout the region. Rock-poster artists such as Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, and Wes Wilson generated an exciting array of distinctive works featuring distorted hand-lettering and vibrating colors, while wildly creative light shows, such as those by Bill Ham and Ben Van Meter, served as expressions of the new psychedelic impulse.

Distinctive codes of dress also set members of the Bay Area counterculture apart from mainstream America. Local designers began to create fantastic looks using a range of techniques and materials, including leatherwork, hand-painting, knitting and crotchet, embroidery, repurposed denim, and tie-dye. These innovators included Birgitta Bjerke, aka 100% Birgitta; Mickey McGowan, aka the Apple Cobbler; Burray Olson; and Jeanne Rose.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, an exhilarating exhibition of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films at the de Young. A 50th anniversary celebration of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967, the exhibition presents more than 400 significant cultural artifacts of the time, including almost 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museums’ extensive permanent holdings, supplemented by key, iconic loans.

“The 1967 Summer of Love was a defining moment in San Francisco’s history,” states Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “With the de Young’s proximity to the Haight-Ashbury district, our exhibition is the cornerstone of a city-wide celebration. The work created during this period remains a significant legacy and we are uniquely positioned to present this story in all of its controversial glory.”

“Our collections have always reflected our interest and respect for this period in Bay Area history,” notes Jill D’Alessandro, curator of textile and costume arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The scope and scholarship of this exhibition weave the many threads of this story together to create a new context and narrative that is both reverential and refreshing.”

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll commemorates an “only in San Francisco” social and aesthetic movement, and reminds museum visitors that in a time of international upheaval, the city played a vital role in changing society and amplifying the pulse of the nation. The exhibition is organized by Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry, assistant curator for the Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with contributions by Julian Cox, chief curator and founding curator of photography at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and runs through August 20 at the de Young.

IN DETAIL
The exhibition opens with a look at the Trips Festival of January 21–23, 1966, providing background and context into this creative period. Co-organized by American writers Stewart Brand and Ken Kesey, this multimedia extravaganza—complete with liquid light and slide shows, film projections, electronic sounds, and more—was the first event to gather members of the counterculture in a significant way.

The exhibition goes on to explore the role of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and Golden Gate Park, both sites of pivotal gatherings such as the first Human Be-In of January 1967 and groundbreaking political street theater by the Diggers. Photographs by Herb Greene, Jim Marshall, Elaine Mayes, and Leland Rice showcase the spirit of the time, as do the handwork of Alexandra Jacopetti Hart and the exquisite denim creations of Love, Melody—the label by Melody Sabatasso. The Haight was home to the underground San Francisco Oracle newspaper, social service organizations like the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, and head shops, poster shops, and boutiques that catered to a youthful clientele.

After exploring the place in which the counterculture germinated, the exhibition investigates the movement’s aesthetic content. Largely drawing upon San Francisco’s geographic location and colorful past, rock-poster artists including Griffin, Robert Fried, Stanley Mouse and others, and fashion designers such as Burray Olson and Jeanne Rose, layered stereotypical imagery of the American West alongside aesthetic styles borrowed from the Victorian era and Far Eastern cultures in their work, often in response to the city’s growing music industry.

“The Fine Arts Museums have long held a significant collection of posters, prints and documents from this period,” says Terry. “These works have been reproduced so broadly over the past 50 years that we lose sight of how startlingly original and inventive this work is—and how it defined, reflected and augmented the culture from which it emerged.”

At the Fillmore Auditorium, Avalon Ballroom, and other venues throughout the city, musical groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane drew fancifully dressed crowds and, together with their fans, put on a show. A gallery devoted to the so-called San Francisco Sound highlights legendary San Francisco dance concerts, which were remarkable for their diversity of musical lineups and participatory nature. Light shows—whether liquid, as exemplified by the work of Ham, or multimedia, as achieved by Van Meter and Roger Hillyard’s North American Ibis Alchemical Company—covered  musicians and concertgoers alike in projections. Light show commissions by Ham and Van Meter create immersive environments for museum visitors, offering a hint of the multisensory experience.

“The exhibition boldly recreates the multimedia paradigm that defined the aesthetic of the era,” adds Cox. “We are fortunate that these pioneering light show artists are still working here in the Bay Area, and we are thrilled to be able to include new and original works shaped by their vision.”

 

Participation was at the heart of San Francisco’s counterculture, and nowhere was this felt more strongly than in gatherings where likeminded people came together in support of social and political change. The exhibition concludes with artworks that reflect the movement’s ideological concerns, highlighting the intersecting strains of art and activism, such as photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch, Pirkle Jones, and Stephen Shames that capture the Black Panthers’ intense commitment to community-led action.

Throughout the exhibition, the aesthetic legacy of this fecund period is striking, still reverberating 50 years later.

 

In the mid-1960s, artists, activists, writers, and musicians converged on Haight-Ashbury with hopes of creating a new social paradigm. By 1967, the neighborhood would attract as many as 100,000 young people from all over the nation. The neighborhood became ground zero for their activities, and nearby Golden Gate Park their playground.

The period is marked by groundbreaking developments in art, fashion, music and politics. Local bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead were the progenitors of what would become known as the “San Francisco Sound,” music that found its visual counterpart in creative industries that sprang up throughout the region. Rock-poster artists such as Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, and Wes Wilson generated an exciting array of distinctive works featuring distorted hand-lettering and vibrating colors, while wildly creative light shows, such as those by Bill Ham and Ben Van Meter, served as expressions of the new psychedelic impulse.

Distinctive codes of dress also set members of the Bay Area counterculture apart from mainstream America. Local designers began to create fantastic looks using a range of techniques and materials, including leatherwork, hand-painting, knitting and crotchet, embroidery, repurposed denim, and tie-dye. These innovators included Birgitta Bjerke, aka 100% Birgitta; Mickey McGowan, aka the Apple Cobbler; Burray Olson; and Jeanne Rose.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll, an exhilarating exhibition of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films at the de Young. A 50th anniversary celebration of the adventurous and colorful counterculture that blossomed in the years surrounding the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967, the exhibition presents more than 400 significant cultural artifacts of the time, including almost 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museums’ extensive permanent holdings, supplemented by key, iconic loans.

“The 1967 Summer of Love was a defining moment in San Francisco’s history,” states Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “With the de Young’s proximity to the Haight-Ashbury district, our exhibition is the cornerstone of a city-wide celebration. The work created during this period remains a significant legacy and we are uniquely positioned to present this story in all of its controversial glory.”

“Our collections have always reflected our interest and respect for this period in Bay Area history,” notes Jill D’Alessandro, curator of textile and costume arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The scope and scholarship of this exhibition weave the many threads of this story together to create a new context and narrative that is both reverential and refreshing.”

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll commemorates an “only in San Francisco” social and aesthetic movement, and reminds museum visitors that in a time of international upheaval, the city played a vital role in changing society and amplifying the pulse of the nation. The exhibition is organized by Jill D’Alessandro and Colleen Terry, assistant curator for the Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with contributions by Julian Cox, chief curator and founding curator of photography at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and runs through August 20 at the de Young.

IN DETAIL
The exhibition opens with a look at the Trips Festival of January 21–23, 1966, providing background and context into this creative period. Co-organized by American writers Stewart Brand and Ken Kesey, this multimedia extravaganza—complete with liquid light and slide shows, film projections, electronic sounds, and more—was the first event to gather members of the counterculture in a significant way.

The exhibition goes on to explore the role of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood and Golden Gate Park, both sites of pivotal gatherings such as the first Human Be-In of January 1967 and groundbreaking political street theater by the Diggers. Photographs by Herb Greene, Jim Marshall, Elaine Mayes, and Leland Rice showcase the spirit of the time, as do the handwork of Alexandra Jacopetti Hart and the exquisite denim creations of Love, Melody—the label by Melody Sabatasso. The Haight was home to the underground San Francisco Oracle newspaper, social service organizations like the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, and head shops, poster shops, and boutiques that catered to a youthful clientele.

After exploring the place in which the counterculture germinated, the exhibition investigates the movement’s aesthetic content. Largely drawing upon San Francisco’s geographic location and colorful past, rock-poster artists including Griffin, Robert Fried, Stanley Mouse and others, and fashion designers such as Burray Olson and Jeanne Rose, layered stereotypical imagery of the American West alongside aesthetic styles borrowed from the Victorian era and Far Eastern cultures in their work, often in response to the city’s growing music industry.

“The Fine Arts Museums have long held a significant collection of posters, prints and documents from this period,” says Terry. “These works have been reproduced so broadly over the past 50 years that we lose sight of how startlingly original and inventive this work is—and how it defined, reflected and augmented the culture from which it emerged.”

At the Fillmore Auditorium, Avalon Ballroom, and other venues throughout the city, musical groups such as Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane drew fancifully dressed crowds and, together with their fans, put on a show. A gallery devoted to the so-called San Francisco Sound highlights legendary San Francisco dance concerts, which were remarkable for their diversity of musical lineups and participatory nature. Light shows—whether liquid, as exemplified by the work of Ham, or multimedia, as achieved by Van Meter and Roger Hillyard’s North American Ibis Alchemical Company—covered  musicians and concertgoers alike in projections. Light show commissions by Ham and Van Meter create immersive environments for museum visitors, offering a hint of the multisensory experience.

“The exhibition boldly recreates the multimedia paradigm that defined the aesthetic of the era,” adds Cox. “We are fortunate that these pioneering light show artists are still working here in the Bay Area, and we are thrilled to be able to include new and original works shaped by their vision.”

Participation was at the heart of San Francisco’s counterculture, and nowhere was this felt more strongly than in gatherings where likeminded people came together in support of social and political change. The exhibition concludes with artworks that reflect the movement’s ideological concerns, highlighting the intersecting strains of art and activism, such as photographs by Ruth-Marion Baruch, Pirkle Jones, and Stephen Shames that capture the Black Panthers’ intense commitment to community-led action.

Throughout the exhibition, the aesthetic legacy of this fecund period is striking, still reverberating 50 years later.

 

Photo captions:

Loren Rehbock, “Mnasidika, 1510 Haight St.,” 1967. Color offset lithograph poster. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of the Gary Westford Collection, in memory of Janis Joplin, 2016.32.3. © Loren Rehbock

Patrick Lofthouse, “Love, Staple Singers, Roland Kirk, April 18, Fillmore Auditorium, April 19 & 20, Winterland,” 1968. Color offset lithograph poster. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum Purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund, 1972.53.132 Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Wilfried Sätty, “Turn on Your Mind (Jerry Garcia Wearing Flag Top Hat),” ca. 1967. Color offset lithograph poster. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Walter and Josephine Landor, 2001.97.29A. © Walter Medeiros / Sätty Estate Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bob Seidemann, “Five San Francisco poster artists” [left to right: Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Wes Wilson, and Stanley Mouse], 1967. Collection of the artist. © Bob Seidemann Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Ruth-Marion Baruch, “Hare Krishna Dance in Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury,” 1967. Gelatin silver print. Lumière Gallery, Atlanta, and Robert A. Yellowlees. Courtesy Special Collections, University Library, University of California Santa Cruz. Pirkle Jones and Ruth-Marion Baruch Photographs Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Helene Robertson with handwork by Marie Robertson, Chubby, mid-1960s. Crocheted and hooked acrylic yarn. Collection of the Artist Helene Robertson, Tank top, mid-1960s. Ribbed cotton with appliqué patch. Collection of the Artist Hot pants, mid-1960s. Synthetic satin. Collection of Helene Robertson Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Dress, ca. 1920s (altered ca. 1970). Silk satin with embroidery (satin stitch), glass beads, and rhinestones. Collection of the Kling Family Shawl, ca. 1920. Silk mesh with metallic and silk thread embroidery (chain stitch). Collection of Marna Clark Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

“Pathfinder” Frank Berry, Man’s ensemble (jacket and pants), ca. 1970. Leather with silver buttons, bone and brass beads, tin cones with horsehair, and nineteenth-century sinew-sewn Sioux beadwork strip. Collection of Peter Kaukonen Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Embroidered hospital scrub top, ca. 1968. Cotton plain weave with cotton embroidery (bullion knots, encroaching satin, fly, running, and satin stitches). Collection of Arthur Leeper and Cynthia Shaver Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Bonnie MacLean, “Yardbirds, The Doors, James Colton Blues Band, Richie Havens, July 25-30, Fillmore Auditorium,” 1967. Color offset lithograph poster. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund, 1972.53.103. © Bill Graham / Bonnie MacLean Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Herb Greene, “Dead on Haight Street,” [Left to right: Jerry Garcia, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Bob Kreutzmann], 1967 (printed 2006). Platinum print. Private collection. © Herb Greene

Elaine Mayes, “Couple with Child, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco,” 1968. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of Joseph Bellows Gallery. Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Ruth-Marion Baruch, “All the Symbols of the Haight,” 1967. Gelatin silver print. Lumière Gallery, Atlanta, and Robert A. Yellowlees Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Wes Wilson, “‘A Tribal Stomp,’ Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, February 19, Fillmore Auditorium,” 1966. Offset lithograph poster. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund, 1974.13.196. Artwork by Wes Wilson. © 1966, 1984, 1994 Rhino Entertainment Company. Used with permission. All rights reserved. www.familydog.com Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Mickey McGowan (Apple Cobbler) “Gambling” boot, ca. 1975. Appliquéd gambling table felt, poker chips, playing cards, dice, and neoprene rubber soles. Collection of the Artist “Ocean Tantra” boot, ca. 1975. Appliquéd silk and cotton complex weave, brass button, wood beads, and neoprene rubber soles. Collection of the Artist “Mandala” boot, ca. 1975. Appliquéd Chinese silk complex weaves, silk velvet, and neoprene rubber soles. Collection of Finnlandia Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco


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