Friday, September 9, 2016

Revolutions and Revivals

Tomorrow the Victoria and Albert Museum will open a new exhibition called "You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels."

The show will feature album covers, pop art, poster designs, photography, fashion, and film from the watershed period of 1966-1970.

Jim Gurney in eighth grade art class (link to blog post)
Growing up in Palo Alto during that period, and then going to college in Berkeley, I was keenly aware of the album cover art, the Fillmore posters, the outrageous underground comix, and the oversize portraits by Andy Warhol. It all seemed so new and exciting.

But I didn't realize at the time how much those visual innovations owed to revivals of earlier styles. Artists are magnets for visual ideas, and we were inspired by books on Alphonse Mucha, the lettering guides from the Golden Age of Penmanship, and the comics and animation from the 1930s. All these influences took some effort to locate—you had to dig through used bookstores or explore the stacks in libraries—but they were out there.

It may appear that these eras of innovation were merely a rejection of the past, brought about by revolutionary geniuses of the moment such as the Beatles, Andy Warhol, or Bob Dylan. The 1960s did represent a break from the past, but the new ideas grew from the DNA of earlier art forms. In fact all of those great artists—McCartney, Lennon, Warhol, and Dylan—were profound students of earlier styles, and were interested in other art forms outside their main area of expertise, such as film, and animation.

I think we're living in a similar time of revolutionary thought in art and culture, brought about by the access to new ideas via the Internet, but the innovators recognized by future art historians will be those whose roots go deep into the soil of the past, not those who only follow the big names of the present moment.

You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels."

1 comment:

Pilgrim said...

They don't make school principals like they used to. Thanks for the link to the trip down memory lane.