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A Fine Introduction to an Important Direction in Art,
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This review is from: Psychedelic: Optical and Visionary Art since the 1960s (MIT Press) (Hardcover)
Accompanying an exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art, this splendid, well-selected collection of 74 plates and three critical essays offers the reader the spectrum of optical, illusional, and drug-influenced Western art that has explored perception, mind realities, and popular technological culture since the early 1960s. Visionary and even spiritual, the fine reproductions dazzle and stimulate. The group oddly, but understandably, does not include any of the popular advertising posters for Fillmore or Avalon Ballrooms in San Francisco or any of the E.C. Escher mind-twisting illustrations. The precision in the collection of 'serious' art advances the bright contrasts of Fauvists and the dreamlike world of Modernists. Curator David Rubin's first essay provides the historical introduction, mentioning precedents and early approaches, and describes each featured artist's background and the particular representative art. Robert Morgan's essay is somewhat diffused and goes deeper into the counterculture, hippies, and the use of entheogens, such as LSD, mescaline, and cannabis. Mind and alternative realities were core to the movement and art and rock music (versus Beat literature, poetry and jazz) were the communicative and ritual media. The later examples are less scientifically direct and show a return toward psychological allegory and personal cultural and societal criticism. The final essay of Daniel Pinchbeck is more ideological with its discussion of the cultural ramifications of these mind-effecting art. He focuses on spiritual transformation and transcendence, the pioneers of R. Gordon Wasson in Mexico in pursuit of mushrooms and William Burrough's ayuhuasca experiences in the Amazon. Sterile social materialism and complacency along with twin-bladed technology brought discontented thinkers to botanic vehicles of holistic experience. This appreciation of interdependent interconnectiveness, systems concepts, and ecological models continues to influence physics, environmental studies,and political policies. The lessons of indigenous peoples, shamans, and nature-integrative perspectives become more acute today. This book does not include art from such sources, as the peyote art of the Mexican Huichol shamans. Instead, the survey demonstrates the great variety of approaches in modern art. It is an appetizer for further examination of particular artists and forms, of which some good books are available.