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West of Center

Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1965–1977

2011

Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner, editors
Foreword by Lucy R. Lippard

West of Center

Recovering the art and lifestyle of the counterculture in the American West in the 1960s and ’70s

West of Center elaborates the historical and artistic significance of the counterculture projects of the 1960s and ‘70s within the broader narrative of postwar American art. The contributors illuminate how, in the western United States, the counterculture’s unique integration of art practices, political action, and collaborative life activities serves as a linchpin connecting postwar and contemporary artistic endeavors.

West of Center is an overview of the rich and complicated countercultural moment when different artistic practices shared a belief in and dedication to alternative methods and materials. From Drop City to Anna and Lawrence Halprin’s workshops, from Paolo Soleri to Newton and Helen Harrison’s ecological projects, this volume makes connections across disciplines and describes multi-faceted influences on the art of today.

Chip Lord, Founder and partner with Ant Farm, 1968–1978

In the heady and hallucinogenic days of the 1960s and ’70s, a diverse range of artists and creative individuals based in the American West—from the Pacific coast to the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest—broke the barriers between art and lifestyle and embraced the new, hybrid sensibilities of the countercultural movement. Often created through radically collaborative artistic practices, such works as Paolo Soleri’s earth homes, the hand-built architecture of the Drop City and Libre communes, Yolanda López’s political posters, the multisensory movement workshops of Anna and Lawrence Halprin, and the immersive light shows and video-based work by the Ant Farm and Optic Nerve collectives were intended to generate new life patterns that pointed toward social and political emancipation.

In West of Center, Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner bring together a prominent group of scholars to elaborate the historical and artistic significance of these counterculture projects within the broader narrative of postwar American art, which skews heavily toward New York’s avant-garde art scene. This west of center countercultural movement has typically been associated with psychedelic art, but the contributors to this book understand this as only one dimension of the larger, artistically oriented, socially based phenomenon. At the same time, they reveal the disciplinary, geographic, and theoretical biases and assumptions that have led to the dismissal of countercultural practices in the history of art and visual culture, and they detail how this form of cultural and political activity found its place in the West.

A companion to an exhibition originating at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, this book illuminates how, in the western United States, the counterculture’s unique integration of art practices, political action, and collaborative life activities serves as a linchpin connecting postwar and contemporary artistic endeavors.

West of Center

Elissa Auther is associate professor of contemporary art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She is the author of String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art (Minnesota, 2010).

Adam Lerner is director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and chief animator in the Department of Fabrications.

Lucy R. Lippard is an internationally known writer, activist, and curator. She is the author of eighteen books on contemporary art and has written art criticism for Art in America, The Village Voice, and Z Magazine, among other publications.

West of Center

West of Center is an overview of the rich and complicated countercultural moment when different artistic practices shared a belief in and dedication to alternative methods and materials. From Drop City to Anna and Lawrence Halprin’s workshops, from Paolo Soleri to Newton and Helen Harrison’s ecological projects, this volume makes connections across disciplines and describes multi-faceted influences on the art of today.

Chip Lord, Founder and partner with Ant Farm, 1968–1978

A well-conceived and thought-provoking essay collection, highly recommended for any enthusiast or scholar of American art of the 1960s.

Library Journal

West of Center... situates itself as a resource book in an ongoing attempt to
reappraise the era's variety and nuances. The counterculture, this enlightening book argues,
was almost willfully contradictory and therefore endlessly surprising.

Art Monthly

The mostly fascinating essays in West of Center investigate many aspects of countercultural art, including psychedelic posters, craft workshops, Black Panther imagery and the Buddhist inspiration for an art of wonder and awareness.

Milwaukee Shepherd Express

Ambitious and broad in scope, this volume is a necessary contribution to a rapidly expanding field of scholarship.

Choice

West of Center

Contents

Foreword: Memory as Model
Lucy R. Lippard
Introduction. The Counterculture Experiment: Consciousness and Encounters at the Edge of Art
Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner
I. Communal Encounters
1. How to Build a Commune: Drop City’s Influence on the Southwestern Commune Movement
Erin Elder
2. Collective Movement: Anna and Lawrence Halprin’s Joint Workshops
Eva J. Friedberg
3. The Farm by the Freeway
Jana Blankenship
4. San Francisco Video Collectives and the Counterculture
Deanne Pytlinski
II. Handmade Worlds
5. Handmade Genders: Queer Costuming in San Francisco circa 1970
Julia Bryan-Wilson
6. Libre, Colorado, and the Hand-Built Home
Amy Azzarito
7. Craft and the Handmade at Paolo Soleri’s Communal Settlements
Elissa Auther
8. Pond Farm and the Summer Craft Experience
Jenni Sorkin
9. Expanded Cinema in Los Angeles: The Single Wing Turquoise Bird
David E. James
10. Paper Walls: Political Posters in an Age of Mass Media
Tom Wilson
III. Cultural Politics
11. The Print Culture of Yolanda M. López
Karen Mary Davalos
12. The Countercultural "Indian": Visualizing Retribalization at the Human Be-In
Mark Watson
13. Goddess: Feminist Art and Spirituality in the 1970s
Jennie Klein
14. The Revolution Will Be Visualized: Black Panther Artist Emory Douglas
Colette Gaiter
15. Out of the Closets, Into the Woods: The Post-Stonewall Emergence of Queer Anti-urbanism
Scott Herring
IV. Altered Consciousness
16. Naked Pictures: Ansel Adams and the Esalen Institute
Suzanne Hudson
17. Techniques of Survival: The Harrisons and the Environmental Counterculture
Amanda Boetzkes
18. Countercultural Intoxication: An Aesthetics of Transformation
Mark Harris
19. Everywhere Present Yet Nowhere Visible: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Dharma Art at the Naropa Institute
Bill Scheffel
20. Signifying the Ineffable: Rock Poster Art and Psychedelic Counterculture in San Francisco
Scott B. Montgomery

Acknowledgments
Contributors
Index