Nov 11, 2011

REVIEW | High Art | Ted Owen | 1998

Well one doesn't have to be hanging with the green lady or flying high with lucy in the sky to enjoy this wonderful book written by Ted Owen in 1998.  Dealing primarily with the psychedelic poster art of the 1960's and 70's, along with a few of today, Owen does a magnificent job in displaying and critiquing the different styles and techniques used not only to create but manage the awesome works of art. I believe after reading a book like this one can clearly understand and appreciate contemporary art on a much deeper and more personal level with the artist, seeing as a very large portion, if not the majority of art work and artists of today, lived and flourished through this amazing period of love, protest, great music, and of course, lots and lots of drugs.

The book begins of course with a brief introduction with Ted Owen placing things into perspective, giving a light history lesson as to possibly set the mood for this new radical era springing forth these psychedelic ideals.  "Old attitudes and stale tradition were being swept aside as rampant consumerism encouraged a sense of experimentation and freedom in sexual morality clothes, hairstyles, music, art and politics" .  An important aspect to the beginning of the book is the brief history given about LSD(lysergic acid diethylamide)
or simply- acid. As many will argue, hallucinogenic drugs are not required for psychedelic art, but I'm sure 
they do help.  The book includes several examples of art done on blotter paper (sheets of paper containing acid divided into squares or "hits") which I personaly enjoyed the artwork or perhaps the idea of the art work on the blotter papers much more than the poster art. Continuing through the book, the majority deals with the more prominent artist,producers, and venues that dealt with these trippy posters from the 60's on into the 70's.  There seemed to be a complete lack of works from the 80's and only a few from the 90's.  
Norman Hartweg, Can You Pass the Acid Test?, 1966

Owen has an incredible way of organization through the book defining and describing ideas and concepts with a very appropriate timing.  Using a linear technique, he goes through the big and small phases this era brought on, keeping them grouped with who did what poster, when they did it, what venue and bands it was for, and occasionally and interesting side story to aid in personalizing and possibly immortalize the psychedelic poster era.  Interesting enough the book does indeed cover both American and the British sides to this groovy story. Starting with the American and moving through the British the book continues to amaze as it ends with a chapter dedicated to the novice collector, giving great advice on finding and identifying original prints.  Owens does a great job speaking clearly through his writing, defining terms as he goes, being sure that even the most inexperienced collector understands and comprehends his advice.  

Alex Grey, Namaste, 1994, oil on linen, 36 x 48 in.
After reading this book I can definitely appreciate the rock posters of the acid trip era for more than just  simple stoner art made to advertise the where and whens of concerts and shows.  With that said I also feel like I have more of a connection with the "trippy" art of today.  Something that may have just come across to me as strange or peculiar, like the work of Peter Max, or Alex Grey now seems to have a back story already set into play, making me feel closer to the work, appreciating it more.

-David Davis


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