Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

BAMPFA, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley. This exhibition is part of San Francisco’s 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia – Through May 21, 2017

This major exhibition is the first comprehensive exploration of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s and its impact on global art, architecture, and design. It presents an extraordinary array of works—many of which have been added for the Berkeley presentation—including experimental furniture, immersive environments, media installations, alternative magazines and books, printed ephemera, and films that convey the social, cultural, and political ferment of this transformative period, when radical experiments challenged convention, overturned traditional hierarchies, and advanced new communal ways of living and working. In the art, architecture, and design of the counterculture one can see early stirrings of the tech revolution and ecological consciousness, as well as powerful expressions of the wish for peace and social justice.

Clay Geerdes: Cockettes Go Shopping, 1972; digital print; 42 x 28 in.; courtesy David Miller, from the estate of Clay Geerdes.

The Cockettes, a flamboyant ensemble of hippies, gay, straight, and undecided, decked themselves out in gender-bending drag and tons of glitter for a series of legendary midnight musicals at the Palace Theater in North Beach.

The Cockettes were born on stage, New Year’s Eve, 1969. The collective passion was to take every fantasy, desire, idol and dream and in the most joyously flamboyant way possible, put it onto the stage.

Founded by Hibiscus (real name, George Harris, Jr.) the troupe performed outrageous parodies of show tunes (or original tunes in the same vein) and gained an underground cult following that eventually led to mainstream exposure. With titles like Gone With the Showboat to Oklahoma, Hell’s Harlots and Pearls over Shanghai, these all singing, all dancing extravaganzas featured elaborate costumes, rebellious sexuality, and exuberant chaos.

The Cockettes were soon heralded as the cutting edge of Freak Theatre appearing in Rolling Stone, Paris Match and even Playboy magazines. They attracted admiration from Diana Vreeland, John Lennon and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Truman Capote and Rex Reed attended a San Francisco performance of Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma, and Reed wrote a glowing review calling it “a landmark in the history of new, liberated theater…”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s