High Art

Acid Queen, 1970. Tom Gatz

In the 1960s Timothy Leary prophesied a future in which LSD reigned over humanity. The American psycologist, writer and futurist  dedicated much of his life researching and campaigning the psychedelic drug in the belief that its spiritual, theraputic and emotional benefits surpassed those of any other substance known on earth.

Appropriately, Leary’s life was full of highs and lows. In 1965 he was arrested, the police having caught him smuggling marijuana into Mexico…in his daughter’s knickers; a conviction that he was later acquitted of but only after having The U.S Supreme Court declare the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Having successfully screwed with the U.S judicial system, he took the next logical step and decided to run for Govenor of California, against Ronald Reagan.   Leary became politically recognized by his slogan; “Come together, join the party,” and invoked the song writing talents of his good friend and follower John Lennon to come up with a suitable theme tune for his campaign. For Leary, John came up with “Come Together, ” a song which came to surpass the political party that it was written for (by a LONG way.) Leary never made it into the Governor seat and the following year was jailed for ten years as a culminating sentence for previous drug related offenses. However it was not before long that Leary managed to stage a non-violent escape from prison and fled with his wife to Algeria.

Music was not the only creative realm that psychedelia impacted during the 60s and 70s. LSD received religion-like status worldwide and Leary was it’s messiah. For a world absorbed in war, persecution and restriction, it signified total release of the mind from the confinements of reality and came to symbolize liberal attitude. Art became an experiential force as creatives sought to communicate and recreate their mind blowing hallucinations and take their viewers to far out dimensions . Aesthetically, this meant a drive towards visual innovation; kaleidoscopic colour palettes, the invention of the UV backlight and designs usually directed at achieving implicit free flowing beauty, opulence and serenity as advocated by the European Art Nouveau movement. The most notable visual output from this movement came in the format of the psychedelic poster. Propelled by the invasion of the British psychedelic rock force led by bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, artists and design outfits were comissioned to create experimental promotional posters, for experimental music for experimental events….whilst everyone was experimenting with LSD. Meanwhile President Richard Nixon was publicly declaring Leary “the most dangerous man in America.”

Needless to say Leary’s ultimate ambition of an acid driven world never materialized, which is probably for the best considering the state of our politics and economy when we are not all high.  However inviable his ultimate goal, Leary’s message was one of peace and eternal optimism. It enabled the birth of an artistic movement that was purely counter-cultural and stands alone as totally mesmerizing. Who needs drugs. Have a nice trip.

Mystic Meg, A.S.A Kite

Adam & Even, Michael Art

The Ultimate Trip, 1976

Love is all you need, A.S.A. Kite

Untitled, 1970. Joe Lombardo

Sunshine, 1976. M.H Stein

Mainline Love, 1969. Buroff, Frank Kaye

Tiger Lady, Michael Art

Keep on Truckin‘, R.Crumb

Quebec Love, Giles

Felix, acid blotter art

Mad Hatter, acid blotter art

Tim Leary signed acid blotter art


Gathering of the Tribes, “Human Be-In” 1967. MIchael Bowen and Stanley Mouse

1966, Victor Moscoso

Grateful Dead promotional poster, Wes Wilson

The Who promotional poster, Hapshash and The Coloured Coat

Lunds Konsthall, 1969


The Hush Will Take Over, A.S.A Kite

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4 responses to “High Art

  1. That’s what “Come Together” is about? Wow. I’m amazed some savvy politico hasn’t co-opted it for that purpose again. The article’s well done, thanks. Nice artwork, too. (I didn’t know R.Crumb did “Keep On Truckin” either — it’s so obvious, now!)
    –Jim, grassfedart

  2. Pingback: Femmes and Fauna -- [earthy erotica] *NSFW* - Page 5 - Tilted Forum Project Discussion Community

  3. thanks for the art! :0

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