The Daily Heller: Trippin’ Through the Creative Psyche

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Lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD, is a hallucinogenic drug that helped define ’60s culture—music, art, comics, posters, dance, fashion—but that was not the original intent. Swiss chemist Albert Hofman first synthesized the drug in 1938 to treat respiratory depression. In 1943, Hofman accidentally discovered its hallucinogenic attributes when he absorbed some through his skin. Two decades later the psychedelic era began. LSD was criminalized for recreational use in many countries, but is making a comeback (or flashback) in a big way.

Post-hippie proponents are returning through art and science. One manifestation of acid’s revival is the recently announced reissue of San Francisco–based artist Joe Roberts’ 2015 title, LSD Worldpeace (May 18). His collection of pop images includes texts by Myla DalBesio and Matthew Ronay deciphering and decoding meanings, talismans and signifiers, guiding the way through Roberts’ freely associative body of work and its unique language. 

Roberts is known for revealing, surreal and hallucinatory paintings, drawings, and mixed-media works, often referencing art brut or naïve traditions of artmaking. Shapes, colors, phantasmagoric scenes and mystic symbolism combine in worlds of cavernous hallways, catacombs and the sky. Time distorts, bends and even stops as we are ushered through a journey of his creative psyche.

In the book, Roberts’ earliest work welcomes us to the psychedelic journey with nostalgic references to films, comics, toys, logos, branding and countercultural objects like ouija boards, sci-fi, aliens and UFOs. Protective guardians of childhood, the icons of pop culture guide us through our journey in recurring roles throughout the book, taking on new depth and meaning with every appearance. Personal mementos, diary entries, doodles and confessional trip reports add to Roberts’ formative process of searching for transformation, meaning and the rituals of creating art.