Psychedelic Black and White

Psychedelics are usually seen in color. But there was a black-and-white side to the experience represented here in the work of Lee Conklin, who produced posters for the Fillmore West from 1968–1970 and published a book of his drawings titled Viva La Mutation.

Lee Conklin, now 75, was one of the psychedelic virtuosos; his website is filled with remarkable, surprisingly classic work. Why surprising? Because I was just introduced to his work while paging through the equally surprising Psychedelic Review (below), which ran from 1963–1971. It was the first serious journal to address what was becoming a widespread interest in “the alteration and expansion of consciousness” through “substances such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline.”

 

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It was published by the International Federation for Internal Freedom, a group that encouraged research on psychedelic substances. (The “basic long-range goal of IFIF is to work to increase the individual’s control over his own mind,” noted its statement of purpose.) The title “psychedelic” was derived from the Greek and translates as “mind-manifesting.” The publication’s first editorial stated that “a return to inward orientation is not by any means new. From Plato to Hesse, Western philosophers have written of experiences which go beyond our everyday shadowy perception” of reality.

For those of us who believed that acid-derived psychedelic art began and ended with hippies, modern science “discovered and developed a vast repertoire of techniques” to control and manipulate our behaviors. And they benefited artists like Conklin and others who produced work that bridged symbolism with surrealism to define a ’60s generation.

 

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