The University Art Museum is flashing back to the days of hippies, political protests and music as it becomes a part of “High Society.”
The museum opened its new fall exhibits, “High Society: Psychedelic Dance Concert Posters 1965-71” and “The Black Panthers 1968,” last night at an open house featuring live music and free food. Aside from the hanging posters and photographs, a 20-minute documentary — titled, “Feed Your Head: The Psychedelic Era” — about the history of rock ‘n’ roll during the ’60s will be screened regularly until the end of the show’s run on Nov. 27. The exhibits can be viewed Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. at no cost.
Besides featuring bands such as the Grateful Dead, as well as numerous narcotics references, Alexandra Halsey, the museum’s public relations and graphics coordinator, said the posters represent the attitudes of the 1960s’ counterculture.
“When people look back on the ’60s, it just looks like a big party, but it really was a time of tremendous social upheaval,” Halsey said.
The posters, which are on loan from the Paul Prince Collection, feature the work of The Big Five — premiere graphic artists of the time. These artists — Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse and Wes Wilson — designed most of the posters in the collection. The collection also includes rare posters from concerts held at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara City College and UCSB.
“This was the high point in the history of graphic design,” Halsey said.
Paul Prince, the exhibit’s collector and a UCSB alumnus, said he began his freshman year in 1961 and eventually became a graduate student in zoology and the arts.
“I moved here in 1961 and never left,” Prince said. “I really never even left campus.” Prince said he began collecting in the ’60s after mistakenly being placed on a mailing list that sent him postcards – also on display – of the posters he now owns. In 1968, he said, he began working full time at the art museum as a graphics and exhibit designer. He retired in Jan. 2005 and plans on remaining in Santa Barbara.
Along with Prince’s collection is “The Black Panthers 1968” exhibit that consists of a photographic essay by Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones. The exhibit displays photos of Black Panther members and their families.
“We’re trying to bring it forward and connect it to the politics of race,” said Dick Hebdige, Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center.
Halsey said both exhibits have come at a relevant time to today’s youth and she thinks students can benefit greatly by coming to see it.
“They’re truly art – not just people on drugs,” Halsey said.
In connection with the exhibits, Professor Angela Davis of UC Santa Cruz will be speaking at Corwin Pavilion on Nov. 1. Also, Kathleen Cleaver will deliver a lecture, titled, “Looking Back,” at the University Art Museum on Oct. 25.
Halsey said she hopes students will come and view the exhibit and relate to the energy of the ’60s. She said she was excited to see the crowded turnout at the event.
“It’s cool to see how it’s still happening today – flyer art and posters are still really prevalent,” Laura Devendorf, a fourth-year art studio major, said. “Artists are still icons.”