West of Center

West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965–1977

ELISSA AUTHER
ADAM LERNER EDITORS
FOREWORD BY LUCY R. LIPPARD
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttttdgj
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  • Book Info
    West of Center
    Book Description:

    West of Center elaborates the historical and artistic significance of the counterculture projects of the 1960s and ‘70s within the broader narrative of postwar American art. The contributors illuminate how, in the western United States, the counterculture’s unique integration of art practices, political action, and collaborative life activities serves as a linchpin connecting postwar and contemporary artistic endeavors.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7863-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. FOREWORD MEMORY AS MODEL
    (pp. viii-xv)
    Lucy R. Lippard

    West of Centerexponentially expands common knowledge about the arts in the 1960s and ’70s—at least to a then-die-hard New Yorker—and offers forgotten models for action today. Reading it, I realized how much I had missed by being (as we presumed) “at the center” in those decades, while many of the things I cared most about had been happening on the “edges.” Gotham City was in many ways as provincial as New Mexico, where I have ended up, which was another kind of youthful hotbed. (Unlike the avant-garde, the counterculture embraced provincialism.) In the interest of full disclosure,...

  4. INTRODUCTION THE COUNTERCULTURE EXPERIMENT: CONSCIOUSNESS AND ENCOUNTERS AT THE EDGE OF ART
    (pp. xvi-xxxvii)
    Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner

    In the summer of 1968, the young East Coast architect Chip Lord traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to participate in a two-week workshop called “Experiments in Environment,” organized by Anna and Lawrence Halprin. He was so transformed by the experience, he wrote a letter to the Halprins telling them that “the workshop was a catalyst, was an education, was a trip into my future, was an art form, was a lifestyle, was a freestylelife race, was groove.”¹

    “Experiments in Environment” involved a series of experiences situated in Marin County, California, and the city of San Francisco, including blindfolded...

  5. PART I. COMMUNAL ENCOUNTERS
    • CHAPTER 1 HOW TO BUILD A COMMUNE: DROP CITY’S INFLUENCE ON THE SOUTHWESTERN COMMUNE MOVEMENT
      (pp. 2-21)
      Erin Elder

      Just north of Trinidad, Colorado, near the exit for El Moro, is a long flat expanse of tumbleweeds and dirt, leftover snow patches, and barbed wire tangles. Between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and a chain of flat-topped mesas is an emptiness, a deep breath of silence on the Colorado–New Mexico border. Every trace of Drop City has been swept clean. The total lack of ruins, signage, or lingering communards make it difficult to locate exactly where, from 1965 to 1973, there stood a vibrant community experiment that invested in applying art to every aspect of daily life and...

    • CHAPTER 2 COLLECTIVE MOVEMENT: ANNA AND LAWRENCE HALPRIN’S JOINT WORKSHOPS
      (pp. 22-41)
      Eva J. Friedberg

      According to Allan Kaprow’s rendering of the legacy of Jackson Pollock, the artist of the mid-1950s and 1960s was entering into uncharted territory. Instead of working within the confines of conventional form and media, Kaprow encouraged the unbound artist to “become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life.”¹ This call was received by artists working across the art world, and one can arguably include husband and wife collaborators Anna² and Lawrence Halprin among the liberated about whom Kaprow spoke. Though trained in seemingly disparate fields—Anna in modern dance and Lawrence in landscape...

    • CHAPTER 3 THE FARM BY THE FREEWAY
      (pp. 42-55)
      Jana Blankenship

      The present-day Cesar Chavez Street Freeway Interchange that passes over the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco is a tangle of asphalt and vacant lots, where cars, skateboarders, and the homeless coexist in liminal urbanity. This transitory space was once a place of productivity where life grew and roots deepened under the nameCrossroads Community (The Farm)(Figure 3.1). From 1974 to 1987, the derelict spaces underneath and beside the freeway sprouted corn stalks, vegetable gardens, and fruit orchards, supported goats and other animals, engaged children, and housed circuses.Crossroads Community, affectionately known asThe Farm,was one of San Francisco’s...

    • CHAPTER 4 SAN FRANCISCO VIDEO COLLECTIVES AND THE COUNTERCULTURE
      (pp. 56-73)
      Deanne Pytlinski

      Artists’ adoption of portable video cameras in the late 1960s was an attempt to interrupt broadcast television’s one-way flow of information with their own counterimages. In many instances, the goal of liberating the mind from control by the mainstream media through decentralization was coupled with the desire for deeper and more authentic forms of interpersonal communication, an objective closely aligned with counter-cultural values of communal encounter. It is no surprise that many video collectives took shape in San Francisco, as a hub of countercultural activity, and that their emergence relative to video art in California has been of interest to...

  6. PART II. HANDMADE WORLDS
    • CHAPTER 5 HANDMADE GENDERS: QUEER COSTUMING IN SAN FRANCISCO CIRCA 1970
      (pp. 76-93)
      Julia Bryan-Wilson

      In 1974, Alexandra Jacopetti’s bookNative Funk and Flash: An Emerging Folk Artchronicled the reemergence of traditional craft techniques within alternative, hippie subcultures in California.¹ Among its colorful pages, which included documentation of intricate embroidery, hand-carved woodwork, and a macramé children’s park, are photographs of what the book refers to as “Glitter Boys”—gender-bending performers who were affiliated with the San Francisco–based groups the Cockettes and its offshoot the Angels of Light, in the 1970s. These collectives were equal parts experiments in communal living, theater troupes, and active promoters of radical new modes of queer and feminist self-fashioning....

    • CHAPTER 6 LIBRE, COLORADO, AND THE HAND-BUILT HOME
      (pp. 94-109)
      Amy Azzarito

      From Bronson Alcott’s Fruitlands in Massachusetts to Oneida in upstate New York, communal settlements have long been a fixture of American culture. As Emerson wrote to Thomas Carlyle in 1840, every man had a draft of a new community in his pocket, a sensibility that has fostered many subsequent generations of utopian thinkers.¹ The most recent peak in the history of American communal settlements was the explosion of countercultural communes in the 1960s and 1970s. Although estimates of the number of communal participants vary widely, the movement’s most thorough surveyor, Judson Jerome, estimated that by the early 1970s, 750,000 people...

    • CHAPTER 7 CRAFT AND THE HANDMADE AT PAOLO SOLERI’S COMMUNAL SETTLEMENTS
      (pp. 110-127)
      Elissa Auther

      In 1970, atop a low mesa in the central desert of Arizona, the visionary, Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri broke ground on Arcosanti, his radical plan for the city of the future (Figure 7.1). On paper, Arcosanti comprises multiuse megastructures designed to meet all the economic, social, and physical needs of a projected three thousand to four thousand occupants on a mere fourteen square miles of land. It is one example—to date, the only to move beyond the design phase—of what Soleri refers to as an “arcology,” a gigantic, self-contained, collectively organized and governed community.

      Soleri is one of...

    • CHAPTER 8 POND FARM AND THE SUMMER CRAFT EXPERIENCE
      (pp. 128-139)
      Jenni Sorkin

      During the mid-twentieth century, studio craft provided a vital arena for women as teachers, thinkers, and makers. Ceramics in particular, with its emphasis on self-sufficient rural living, offered women unprecedented social freedoms, with the opportunity to live and teach in nontraditional settings, such as cooperative, experimental, or self-initiated communities. Able to barter their unique wares and skill sets, women, too, found varying degrees of financial autonomy through the informal economies of exchange that existed in midcentury ceramics.

      Certainly this was the case of Bauhaus-trained potter Marguerite Wildenhain (1896–1985). From 1952 until 1980, she presided over Pond Farm, a community...

    • CHAPTER 9 EXPANDED CINEMA IN LOS ANGELES: THE SINGLE WING TURQUOISE BIRD
      (pp. 140-161)
      David E. James

      During the last years of the 1960s and the first of the 1970s—the hey-day of the psychedelic era—the premier light show in Los Angeles, and one of the best in the world, was the Single Wing Turquoise Bird.

      Long before this period, the city had seen several projects involving the projection of abstract light, “color organs,” and similar apparatuses, versions of which date back at least to the 1720s when Louis-Bertrand Castel proposed that color transparencies could be linked to the keys of a harpsichord. In the early 1920s, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, a painter and self-styled Color Motion Picturist,...

    • CHAPTER 10 PAPER WALLS: POLITICAL POSTERS IN AN AGE OF MASS MEDIA
      (pp. 162-181)
      Tom Wilson

      In 1970, a Californian resident recalled walking down Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue “on a warm August night . . . past the endless collection of posters stuck up on walls and poles on the Avenue—the Young Socialists protest this, rally next week against that, free all political prisoners. Saw some people putting up hand-scrawled posters.”¹ Printed in the thousands and representing the divergent concerns of various social movements—all united in bitter opposition to military intervention in Southeast Asia—the posters presented a dramatic and eye-catching sight across U.S. West Coast cities during the late 1960s and the following decade....

  7. PART III. CULTURAL POLITICS
    • CHAPTER 11 THE PRINT CULTURE OF YOLANDA M. LÓPEZ
      (pp. 184-207)
      Karen Mary Davalos

      An open hand holding a broken chain signals the readership from the masthead of the earliest editions ofiBasta Ya!,the newspaper of the defense committee Los Siete de la Raza (Figure 11.1). Produced to mobilize the San Francisco Mission District residents for crusades for justice, notably a call to support seven Latino youth accused of killing a police officer in the summer of 1969,¡Basta Ya!graphically announces its title, which translates as “Enough already!”¹ The exclamation and the vernacular Spanish phrase proclaim the Latin@ community’s impatience with and demand to stop police brutality, gentrification and housing displacement, slumlords,...

    • CHAPTER 12 THE COUNTERCULTURAL “INDIAN”: VISUALIZING RETRIBALIZATION AT THE HUMAN BE-IN
      (pp. 208-223)
      Mark Watson

      At Be-Ins and other communal Happenings, the 1960s counterculture employed politics and performance art to fashion what they called a “community of the tribe.”¹ This alternative political community was expressed through citations of “Indian-ness,” in which appropriated fragments of Native American cultural tradition were deployed as expressions of the counterculture’s own “tribes” (Figure 12.1). This fundamental aspect of the counterculture’s political aesthetics was not a repetitive rehearsing of the primitivism that had existed as a countercurrent in Western art since Paul Gauguin’s flight to Tahiti. Nor was it only a reconstruction of American identity, in the tradition of the Boston...

    • CHAPTER 13 GODDESS: FEMINIST ART AND SPIRITUALITY IN THE 1970S
      (pp. 224-239)
      Jennie Klein

      In 1977, Mary Beth Edelson, an artist and feminist activist, set out with her traveling companion, Anne Healy, to visit the Neolithic Goddess Cave on Grapceva in Hvar Island, part of the former Yugoslavia. Edelson was armed with the archeological maps in Marija Gimbutas’sThe Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, 7000–3500 BC: Myths, Legends, and Cult Imagesas a reference source. Edelson managed to find an elderly tourist guide in the nearby town of Jelsa, who arranged for his son to take them up the mountain to the Neolithic site. The following day, carrying two Yugoslav flashlights and...

    • CHAPTER 14 THE REVOLUTION WILL BE VISUALIZED: BLACK PANTHER ARTIST EMORY DOUGLAS
      (pp. 240-253)
      Colette Gaiter

      The revolution to which Gil Scott-Heron’s lyrics refer was the mid-tolate-twentieth-century worldwide fight against Western imperialism, racism, and capitalist economic domination.¹ Most people in the United States thought the Western powers were fighting against Communism, in a continuation of the cold war on new fronts. In 1966, following the acquittal by an all-white jury of the men accused of killing Samuel Younge, a black student at Tuskegee Institute, for using a whites-only restroom in an Alabama filling station, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) issued a statement. Among other points, SNCC declared: “We maintain that our country’s cry of ‘preserve...

    • CHAPTER 15 OUT OF THE CLOSETS, INTO THE WOODS: THE POST-STONEWALL EMERGENCE OF QUEER ANTI-URBANISM
      (pp. 254-283)
      Scott Herring

      At first glance, a communal-living farmhouse in Grinnell, Iowa, seems an unlikely spot for a sustained campaign against the normalization of white, urban, gay male identity in the post-Stonewall United States. But consider this recollection of one winter in 1973:

      For Christmas that year I had bought Julia, one of my housemates, a subscription toCountry Women,a rural feminist journal out of Mendocino. Reading and lovingCountry Women,I wondered why there wasn’t a similar magazine for gay men. I justknewthat I couldn’t be the only gay man who liked rural life, though it sure seemed that...

  8. PART IV. ALTERED CONSCIOUSNESS
    • CHAPTER 16 NAKED PICTURES: ANSEL ADAMS AND THE ESALEN INSTITUTE
      (pp. 286-305)
      Suzanne Hudson

      In the fall of 1963, Ansel Adams convened a three-day seminar on the work of his colleague, Edward Weston, who had died of Parkinson’s disease some five years earlier (Figure 16.1). As listed in the wee brochure for the newly founded Big Sur Hot Springs, “The Eye of Edward Weston” (which ran September 20—22) encompassed an exhibition, a film screening ofThe Photographer(Willard Van Dyke’s twenty-five-minute black-and–white reel about Weston), and round tables co-led by Adams and photographers Imogen Cunningham, Brett Weston, and Jack Welpott. As the publicity announced:

      Since his death, the stature of Edward Weston...

    • CHAPTER 17 TECHNIQUES OF SURVIVAL: THE HARRISONS AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL COUNTERCULTURE
      (pp. 306-323)
      Amanda Boetzkes

      The statements above, by the French philosopher Jacques Ellul and the American political philosopher and ecologist Murray Bookchin, summarize a deep polarity that emerged within the early environmental movement.¹ On the one hand, Ellul’s quote echoes the sentiment of many environmentalists who were vehemently opposed to the dehumanizing effects of global industrialization and a world seemingly overtaken by machines. On the other hand, there was a growing belief that technology was in fact the backbone of a new ecological society. As Bookchin describes, “an organic mode of life deprived of its technological component would be as nonfunctional as a man...

    • CHAPTER 18 COUNTERCULTURAL INTOXICATION: AN AESTHETICS OF TRANSFORMATION
      (pp. 324-343)
      Mark Harris

      In the 1960s, negotiating psychedelic drugs became a categorical and predetermined undertaking for those seeking immersion in contemporary life. Experimentation with hallucinogens like LSD, peyote, and mescaline accessed a new world of alternatives to established social behavior. LSD in particular was taken as an agent enabling the change in awareness for hidden qualities of the world to be revealed and for new social and political practices to evolve. LSD was understood as the tool to accelerate the process by which lives could be made meaningful in an environment of rapidly changing possibilities. Recognition of the opportunities for engagement with this...

    • CHAPTER 19 EVERYWHERE PRESENT YET NOWHERE VISIBLE: CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE AND DHARMA ART AT THE NAROPA INSTITUTE
      (pp. 344-359)
      Bill Scheffel

      Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a shaper and icon of the counterculture and its embrace of Buddhist teachings and practice (Figure 19.1). He arrived in America in 1970, an ideal guru for the times—a lama, poet, calligrapher, painter, photographer, and playwright with an intense interest in the culture and psychology of the West, a place he’d dreamed of encountering since he was a child. Born in Geje, a Tibetan community of scattered yak tents, to a mother whose first husband had abandoned her, Trungpa, the infant son of two of the poorest residents in the area, appeared in a dream...

    • CHAPTER 20 SIGNIFYING THE INEFFABLE: ROCK POSTER ART AND PSYCHEDELIC COUNTERCULTURE IN SAN FRANCISCO
      (pp. 360-383)
      Scott B. Montgomery

      In his 1849 essay “Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft,” Richard Wagner conceived an interplay of the arts as a Gesamtkunstwerk

      that has to embrace all genres of art, in order to consume, to destroy each one of these genres to some extent as resources for the sake of achieving the overall purpose of them all, in other words the unconditional, direct representation of perfect human nature— this great Gesamtkunstwerk it (i.e., our spirit) recognizes not as the arbitrary possible deed of the individual, but as the necessarily conceivable joint work of the people of the future.¹

      Both as a fusion of...

  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 384-385)
  10. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 386-390)