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San Francisco Psychedelic

February 10 - June 10, 2007


Two new exhibitions at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) celebrate the unique "San Francisco sound" that came out of the Bay area in the mid-1960s. Drawn primarily from the MIA's permanent collection, San Francisco Psychedelic provides a rare opportunity for visitors to view sixty photographs of some of the seminal bands from this movement, such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. In a nearby gallery, a related exhibition, San Francisco Psychedelic Posters, features twenty-eight eye-popping posters designed for the two main San Francisco concert venues of the time: the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium. The two exhibits showcase some of the era's most iconic images.

The mid-1960s was one of the most revolutionary and exciting time periods of the twentieth century. It also saw San Francisco emerge as a creative haven for an international counter cultural movement. Fueled by mind-altering drugs and idealism, musicians within this movement, who had roots in folk and blues, began playing electrified instruments. They incorporated the use of feedback and allowed for lengthy, experimental, free-form jams. This sound not only meshed perfectly with the experience of being high, it developed as a distinctive and internationally influential sound.


San Francisco Psychedelic

Integrated into the psychedelic music scene were photographers who made portraits of the musicians. San Francisco's leading psychedelic groups are featured in the sixty mostly black-and-white photographs in the exhibition. The images, taken in studio, on location, and during live performances capture group dynamics, individual personalities, and the energy of the music. Highlights include a multiple-exposure color image of Janis Joplin by leading rock-'n'-roll photographer, Jim Marshall and a more formal black-and-white image of Jefferson Airplane by the prolific portraitist, Herb Greene. In Marshall's photo, Joplin appears to flicker like an out-of-control strobe light while her contorted face and flailing hands and hair help convey the intensity of her performance. In contrast, Greene's skillful orchestration of the members of Jefferson Airplane and their instruments in front of a graffiti-laden wall draw the viewer's attention to the center of the image and the playful grin of lead singer Grace Slick. Other highlights include works by photographers Bob Seidemann, known for his highly dramatic environmental portraits, and Thomas Weir, who often created eye-bending circular images.

In addition to the photographs of musicians, San Francisco Psychedelic includes a few photographs of nudes, Haight-Ashbury residents, and pivotal local events. Album covers will also be on view and psychedelic music is available for listening at the gallery's audio station. A forty-five page booklet accompanies the exhibition, and is available for purchase in the Museum Shop.


(above: Bob Seidemann, American, born 1941, Janis Joplin, 1967. MIA Media #2005771. MIA Accession #2002.39.1) 


(above: Elaine Mayes, American, born 1938, Group in Front of Garage Door, Haight-Ashbury, 1968. MIA Media #2005777. MIA Accession #L2002.166)


(above: Thomas Weir, American, born 1935, Oracle, 1968, MIA Media #2005779. MIA Accession #2000.113.3)


(above: Thomas Weir, American, born 1935, Grateful Dead and Family, 1968. MIA Media #2005781. MIA Accession #2001.127.1)


San Francisco Psychedelic Posters

Twenty-eight posters designed for the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium, the two main San Francisco concert venues during the mid-sixties, are featured in this intimate exhibition. Individually designed, most feature intense colors, dense imagery, and hard-to-read lettering that was hand-drawn rather than typeset. The posters not only specify the details of the event they were promoting, but simulate the effects of hallucinogenic drugs. Unlike conventional posters that convey their message quickly and easily, these posters require time and energy to decipher.

A handful of artists, known as the Big Five, were responsible for designing the majority of the best San Francisco psychedelic posters. The exhibition includes distinctive and easily recognizable work by each of these artists: Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, and Wes Wilson. Highlights include Mouse's iconic 1966 Grateful Dead poster featuring a skeleton picking a rose, and Victor Moscoso's 1967 poster for Quicksilver Messenger Service, which juxtaposes complementary colors to make the image appear to vibrate or pulsate. Both posters were designed for performances at the Avalon Ballroom.

Local collectors Paul Maurer and Scott West generously lent all the objects on display for San Francisco Psychedelic Posters. This exhibition is made possible in part with support from Ameriprise Financial.


(above: Stanley Mouse, American, born 1940, Grateful Dead, Avalon Ballroom, poster, 1966. MIA Media #2005766. MIA Accession #L2006.65.18) 


(above: Victor Moscoso, American, born 1936, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Avalon Ballroom, poster. 1967, MIA Media #2005768. MIA Accession #L2006.65.15) 


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