“The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll” is open until 20th August in San Francisco’s de Young Museum. It’s a comprehensive exhibit of iconic rock posters, photographs, costumes and textiles from the psychedelic era. In addition to these historic items, interactive music and light shows and avant-garde films are also on display.
The exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the legendary summer of 1967, and, more generally, the influential counterculture of the late 60s. The iconic artefacts on show include nearly 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco’s permanent collection and other significant loans.
By the time of 1967’s “summer of love”, the Haigh-Ashbury district had attracted countless artists and other young people who hoped to bring about a radical social change. This movement resulted in ground-breaking innovations in music and all other forms of art. Local bands such as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead helped define what would become known as the “San Francisco Sound”. Artists like Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse and Wes Wilson produced work that would become the first pieces of psychedelic art, characterized by vibrant colours and distorted letters, attempting to recreate the way one sees the world through the lens of psychedelic drugs. At the same time, the spectacular light shows of Bill Ham and Ben Van Meter strived to imitate the same experience.
The unique new fashion that developed during this era also differentiated those involved in the Bay Area counterculture from the rest of the United States. Local designers like Birgitta Bjerke. Mickey McGowan Burray and Olson Jeanne Rose created never-before-seen designs, using leatherwork, hand-painting, knitting, crotchet, embroidery, repurposed denim and tie-dye.
“The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll” is a much needed reminder of a social, political and artistic movement, whose influence can’t be overestimated and is still felt in our present time. It’s a captivating retelling of the story of the last great international upheaval, in which the city of San Francisco played an essential role.