The Daily Heller: Recalling Magic Carpet Rides

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Well you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me …
On a magic carpet ride …
(John Kay)

New York’s Outsider Art Fair will celebrate its 30th anniversary with the presentation of Field Trip: Psychedelic Solution, 1986–1995, a special exhibition featuring work championed by the legendary underground Greenwich Village gallery Psychedelic Solution. The show is curated by renowned contemporary artist Fred Tomaselli, known for his own “kaleidoscopic pill paintings.”

Wes Wilson

This unprecedented survey draws extensively from the personal collection of Jacaeber Kastor, the founder of Psychedelic Solution, and features some of the greats. Highlights include “Skeleton Amidst Roses,” the original 1900 ink drawing by Edmund J. Sullivan that became the genesis of the logo for the Grateful Dead; a painting on a bass drum head by Grace Slick, made when she was the lead singer of Great Society, prior to joining Jefferson Airplane; rare examples from the DIY cottage industry of blotter acid prints, similar to fine art prints but dipped in liquid LSD; and work from legends like R. Crumb, Gary Panter, Robert Williams, and S. Clay Wilson, whose collaborations with many of the most popular bands from the ’60s and beyond are burnt into our cultural retina.

Left: Martin Sharp, Dantalians Chariot Poster, 1967. Center: Rick Griffin, The Who, 1969. Right: Jack Wise, Trips Festival Vancouver Handbill, 1966.

“In homage to the folkloric aspects of psychedelic art, from which much of this movement organically arose,” note the organizers, “Field Trip will highlight singular artifacts that capture definitive cultural moments.”

Edmund J. Sullivan (1869–1933), Skeleton Amidst Roses, 1900. Anonymous, The Blues Project, 1967.

In his exhibition essay, Carlo McCormick writes, “Many of these artists are instantly recognizable for their creative contributions to the populist forms of album cover art, underground comics and poster art, but their persistent neglect and omission from institutional art history goes to show how unorthodox and revolutionary their aesthetic terms remain to this day, and suggest, as curator Fred Tomaselli puts it, that the art world rewards the formalist precepts of the minimal over the messy and at times uncomfortable expressions of the maximal.”