Summer of Love Review by Jo Raven
Tate Liverpool’s Summer of Love exhibition explores an entire era of exceptional political and cultural change, spanning over a decade from the 1960’s to the early seventies. Focusing on one particular aspect, the ‘psychedelic’ and its diverse creative potential, the Tate offers an assortment of work from posters, record covers, books and magazines, films and installations, spread over two floors. The exhibition covers all aspects of visual culture, produced and strongly influenced by experimentation with the mind-altering effect of drugs, notably marijuana and the hallucinogenic LSD.
Entering the exhibition through a black and white tunnel, you are led into a room teeming with original advertising posters featuring bold, fluorescent colours, intensely detailed and written in barely legible typefaces. The next section is divided into geographical areas: San Francisco and West Coast, New York and the East Cost and London and Liverpool, with each individual area accompanied by a timeline placing the display in its cultural and historical context.
These rooms are filled with memorabilia of the time: press cuttings, photographs, posters, and album covers of every conceivable popular music icon of the time from the Rolling Stones and the Beatles to Pink Floyd. There is an abundance of original literature including work produced by the emerging ‘underground’ magazines, all of which is interspersed with original film footage.
Film, video and multimedia installations feature widely in this exhibition. Light shows, psychedelic films and interactive installations such as Peter Sedgley’s ultraviolet discs, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room Lover Forever and Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and The Velvet Underground, combine a frenzy of vibrant colours, abstract shapes and interchanging images, created to challenge and stretch the human perceptual capacity.
Impacting on all aspects of popular culture at the time, the psychedelic is clearly evident in the fields of art, film, fashion, design and music. For me, Janis Joplin’s hand painted Porsche epitomises the excessively creative and over-the-top style, which has become indicative of this art and this period, making Summer of Love a must see.