Wednesday, July 11, 2012

West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977

In her foreword to West of Center, Lucy Lippard describes the 1960s and 1970s as a time of passion and ideals.  While the book is about art movements across the Western half of the United States, San Francisco, which she describes as "the pulsing heart of the counterculture," occupies a prominent position in this book.

The books editors, Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner, contrast the experimentalism of the West Coast with the New York avant garde: "[T]he counterculture was a movement centered largely in the American West... San Francisco became its hub, serving as an alternative to New York as a site of creative activity."

The counterculture found its impetus for experiment in the various social and political movements of the time.  This aesthetic approach was closely association with movements for social change like The Farm, The Diggers, the Black Panthers, Los Siete de la Raza and others.  It also fostered individual personal transformation and heightening individual consciousness.

West of Center is divided into 20 chapters written by different authrs arranged by four themes: "Communal Encounters," "Handmade Worlds," Cultural Politics" and "Altered Consciousness."  Each of the chapter is beautifully illustrated and is well documented.

Chapters focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area include:

"Collective Movement: Anna and Lawrence Halprin's Joint Workshops" by Eva J. Friedberg

"The Farm by the Freeway" by Jana Blankenship

"San Francisco Video Collectives and the Counterculture" by Deanne Pytlinsk

"Handmade Worlds -- Handmade Genders: Queer Costuming in San Francisco circa 1970" by Julia Bryan-Wilson

"Paper Walls: Political Posters in an Age of Mass Media" by Tom Wilson

"The Print Culture of Yolanda M. López" by  Karen Mary Davalos

"The Countercultural 'Indian': Visualizing Retribalization at the Human Be-in" by Mark Watson

"The Revolution will be Visualized: Black Panther Artist Emory Douglas" by Colette Gaiter

"Signifying the Ineffable: Rock Poster Art and Psychedelic counterculture in San Francisco" Scott B. Montgomery.

West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965-1977, edited by Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner, editors (University of Minnesota Press; Published in cooperation with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, 2012).

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