This major exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love by showcasing radical art, architecture, and design that laid the foundations for the tech revolution, the environmental movement, and advances in social justice.
Hippie Modernism charts the evolution of one of the most fertile periods of recent cultural history (c. 1964–74) with experimental furniture, alternative living structures, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines, experimental books, printed ephemera, and films.
The counterculture’s legacy remains as strong as ever.
These works convey the social, cultural, and political ferment of the 1960s and 1970s, when radical experiments challenged convention, overturned traditional hierarchies, and advanced new communal ways of living and working. Hippie Modernism also demonstrates how the counterculture, once dismissed as a social and aesthetic anomaly, introduced ideas and techniques that have profoundly shaped contemporary life, including ecological awareness, social justice, and open communication. From yoga and organic foods to the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, the counterculture’s legacy remains as strong as ever.
The exhibition at BAMPFA highlights the key role the Bay Area—and especially Berkeley—played in the counterculture movement. Many artists, architects, and designers in this period were searching for a new kind of utopia as an implicit critique of society; however, in the Bay Area, many hoped to go beyond mere critique to create actual change—technological, political, and ecological—on the streets, in the classroom, and in government policy. “Hippies were modern not because they believed that the world could be different than it was,” says BAMPFA Director Lawrence Rinder, “but because they made that difference real.”
Central to the exhibition are works that attempt to expand individual consciousness through altered states of perception, such as the meditative films of Jordan Belson. A wide variety of books, magazines, and posters reflect emerging social awareness and collective consciousness. Other works address the rejection of conventional social structures and the dissolution of boundaries between art and life, culture and politics, including Evelyn Roth’s living structures made from recycled sweaters and a re-creation of a dome by the Drop City collective.
Archival materials from Bay Area protest movements and collectives—ranging from the Indians of All Tribes’ nineteenth-month-long occupation of Alcatraz (1969–71) to the radical performances of the Cockettes and the Angels of Light—represent the transformative activism of the period. Works by local artists and designers, including Frances Butler, J. B. Blunk, Sonya Rapoport, and Bonnie Ora Sherk, showcase the synthesis of High Modernism with counterculture style and themes, while images of the Emeryville mudflats anonymous sculpture park point to a radically individualist approach.
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