Psychedelic Whitewash

May 25, 2007 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

hendrix.jpg

Its nothing of a revelation to say that the 1960s were a time of political and social upheavel around race, class, gender, sexual orientation and more. Any honest look back at the time would reflect that. So, what’s missing from the new exhibit Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era at the Whitney Museum of Art? The image of Jimmy Hendrix above notwithstanding, how about virtually anything that has to do with anyone who wasn’t white, straight and male.

From the New York Times review:

In 1965 antiwar protests started — 25,000 students marched on Washington that year — and they grew larger and more frequent. By 1967, more than 400,000 troops have been sent to Vietnam. Che Guevara was killed that year; the Black Panthers had formed the year before. In 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Racial uprisings spread across the country. The Democratic convention brought the war home to the Chicago streets. In 1969: university takeovers, Altamont. In 1970: Jimi dead. Janis dead. Cambodia. Kent State.

You will learn almost nothing about any of this from the show. Or about the gay liberation movement. Or about the gathering women’s movement, although militant feminism makes total sense given the relentless sexism of psychedelic art, in which all women are young, nude, available “chicks,” and very rarely artists.

Nor would you have any inkling that, for Americans at least, pop culture during these years meant black culture. Apart from Hendrix’s presence, the show is overwhelmingly white. Aretha Franklin’s first big hits — “Respect,” “Chain of Fools” and “Natural Woman” — were all 1967. You won’t find her here. Nor will you find Marvin, or Smokey, or Otis, or Fontella or Ray. Again, take one style for the whole picture, you leave most of the picture out.

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Entry filed under: Art, Media, Pop Culture, Uncategorized.

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