Now Fit To Print: Holland Cotter’s Hippie Flashback


Look, wasn’t born in time for this “Human Be-In” of which the Grey-haired Ones speak, but I own, so don’t think I’m not down with the groovy, psychedelic 60’s. But if going to the Whitney triggered a flashback to my drug-addled youth, I don’t think I’d write about it in the New York Times:

Say you were a middle-class American white kid in 1964. What were you listening to? Jan and Dean, the Shangri-Las. Surfers and bikers. Then you and some friends see the Beatles on their first American tour. They’re so new: four skinny, pale, dandyish guys with femme haircuts singing “Love me do.” The girls in the audience scream. The boys cheer. Ringo shakes his mop and the boys scream too. Hysteria. It’s a high.
Four years later the Beatles are in India, and you’re in college, at a concert, smoking grass and this truly unusual woman named Janis is swinging her hair across the stage. She’s commanding you to take a little piece of her heart. She’s white but sounds black, and she’s reckless, eyes closed, right at the edge of the stage. She’ll fall! Does she care? Outside there’s a war, and the world feels weird, but not in here, tonight.
Then you’re tripping, and Jimi Hendrix is up there on some other stage with this tremendous light show cued to the pulse of the cosmos exploding behind him. No flowers now. No mellow. He strangles the national anthem, then ignites his guitar. Someone behind or beside you whispers: Detroit is on fire. A Buddhist monk torched himself in Saigon. People are making draft-card bonfires. Flames are spilling out of the music, spreading off the stage and into life. You don’t know where acid stops and reality starts.

Also, if I were reviewing an exhibition that fills two floors of the museum, I might actually, you know, talk about more than two of the objects on view. So there’s a Rauschenberg and a Peter Saul, and a Haeberle photo? Were the parenthetical mentions of Archigram and Verner Panton included because they’re in the show? Maybe the Times needs to call Lily Tomlin in to talk Cotter down.
Through Rose-Colored Granny Glasses [nyt]