Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pop Art, Op Art and the Psychedelic Movement

Wes Wilson
Psychedelic:  1. adj. Pertaining to or characterized by hallucinations, distortions of perception and awareness, and sometimes psychotic behavior. 2. n. A drug that produces such effects. 3. An art style influenced by the prevalence of hallucinatory drugs, especially LSD, with typical designs featuring abstract swirls of intense color with curvilinear calligraphy reminiscent of Art Nouveau.

The psychedelic movement began in the mid 1960's and had an effect, not just on music, but also on the way people spoke, on art, literature and philosophy. Posters for rock concerts visually emulated tripping out. The visual motifs included Art Nouveau-inspired curvilinear shapes, illegible hand-drawn type, and intense optical coloration inspired by the pop art movement ten years prior. The end of WWII in 1945 brought about a post-war economic boom in the U.S., and with it an enormous spike in the birth rate, the Baby Boom. Between 1945 and 1957 nearly 76 million babies were born in America. By the mid 60s, most of these kids were young adults. As young people do, "Baby Boomers" questioned America’s materialism and conservative cultural and political norms. During the 1960s a youth movement emerged, seeking to create an egalitarian society free from discrimination. The Feminist and the Civil Rights Movements were a direct result of this evolution. Americans in the 60s and 70s addressed many controversial issues — from human rights, the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, and the environment to drug use, sexual freedom, and nonconformity. Many young people sought spiritual experiences through Eastern Mysticism and psychedelic drugs. 

Victor Morosco
Wes Wilson was one of the best-known designers of psychedelic posters. Most well known for designing posters for The Fillmore in San Francisco, he invented a style that is now synonymous with the peace movement, psychedelic era, and the 1960s. In particular, he is known for inventing and popularizing a psychedelic font that made the letters seem like they were moving or melting.

Victor Moscoso
Victor Moscoso was a formally trained graphic designer who borrowed from comic books, Victorian images, Art Nouveau, and pop art. He used the concept of vibrating colors to create the psychedelic effect in many of his pieces. The vibration is achieved by taking colors from the opposite end of the color wheel, each one having equal value (dark to light) and intensity (brightness).

Op art, short for Optical art, is a style of abstraction that relies on geometric shapes, lines, and color juxtapositions to create optical illusions for the viewer. Gaining popularity in the 1960s, such art often features patterns, grids, and effects like curving or diminishing objects. The Op art movement was driven by artists who were interested in investigating various perceptual effects.

Wes Wilson
Pop is a term first applied to popular culture rather than to art, but it was one of the goals of the Pop Art Movement to blur the boundaries between "high" art and [low] popular culture. Pop Art was one of the major, intrinsically American, artistic movements of the 20th century. The phrase was coined in Britain in 1955 but unsurprisingly the Americans took up the consumerist cause with much greater effect and conviction, and became the pioneers of the movement. Pop Art (and Pop Culture) broke down the barriers between art and culture: packaging, television, advertisements, comic books, the cinema. Simultaneously, Pop Art emphasized the kitschy elements of popular culture as a protest against the elitist art culture and the pretentiousness surrounding it. It glorified unappreciated objects and ordinary business. In doing so, it aimed to make art meaningful for everyday people and came to target a broad audience. Although it gained many supporters for the way it was easy to comprehend, critics saw Pop Art as vulgar. The ideology of the Pop Artists, from Warhol to Rauschenberg opened up the doors for the hippie art of Mouse and Kelley, Wilson and Moscoso in America, and would soon inspire the likes of Martin Sharp, Nigel Waymouth and Michael English in Britain.