The 1960s: Pop and Op Art Prints from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation has been organized by Director John Olbrantz and explores how the Pop and Op art movements, that emerged in the 1960s, had a profound influence on the development of psychedelic posters and fashion.
Looking back, the 1960s was a watershed period in American cultural history. The civil rights, women’s liberation, and LGBTQ movements, as well as the sexual revolution and widespread opposition and polarization to the Vietnam War, led to a search for new societal, cultural, and individual identities. Similarly, the 1960s was an equally important and influential decade in the history of twentieth century art, with the rise of Pop art, Op art, Minimalism, Performance art, Conceptual art, and a host of other movements and styles that would ultimately lead to the emergence of post-modern art in the mid-1970s and beyond.
Pop art emerged in Britain in the mid- 1950s and the United States in the late 1950s as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism, which dominated the contemporary art scene at the time. In the capable hands of artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Pop art presented a challenge to traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular culture, such as advertising, comic books, newspapers, and mundane objects found in everyday life. By the mid to late 1960s, this type of imagery would find creative expression and an outlet in the posters of Rick Griffin, Alton Kelley, Stanley Mouse, Bonnie MacLean, and Wes Wilson, among others.
Like Pop art, Op art represented a revolt in the 1960s against what younger artists considered the long, almost tyrannical dominance of Abstract Expressionism. Unlike Pop art which drew on imagery from popular culture, however, Op art was a style of abstraction that relied on geometric shapes, lines, and color juxtapositions to create optical illusions for the viewer. Gaining popularity in the mid-1960s, the Op art movement was driven by American artists like Joseph Albers and Richard Anuszkiewicz who were interested in investigating various perceptual effects. Albers’ exploration of color theory at Yale University in particular would have a profound effect on his student Victor Moscoso, who would carry the lessons of his teacher to San Francisco in the 1960s and influence a whole generation of poster artists.
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