‘Hippie Modernism’ at the Walker; video honors Justice Alan Page

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
Curator Andrew Blauvelt (L) and “Portable Orchard: Survival Piece Number 5” by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison at “Hippie Modernism.”

Andrew Blauvelt is going out with a bang. In August, the Walker announced that its senior curator of design, research and publishing would be leaving after 17 years to direct the Cranbrook Art Museum in suburban Detroit. Blauvelt has already relocated, but he’s back for his last hurrah on Hennepin Avenue, an exhibition he’s been working on here for years.

Opening Saturday, Oct. 24, “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia,” is a big, trippy, meaty, occasionally noisy show of more than 300 artworks, projects and artifacts spread out over multiple galleries and 13,000 square feet of space. During a preview, Blauvelt commented wryly, “It seems fitting that the last show I organized for the Walker is also the largest.” At 448 pages, the catalog is the size (and color) of the Yellow Pages (remember those?).

It’s a lot to take in – one of those historical, interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary Walker shows that insists you slow down and look closely. Luckily, it will be here through February 28. It’s also a lot of fun, and surprising on many levels. Who knew that hippies, often dismissed as long-haired, drug-addled, unwashed losers in tie-dyed shirts, were so serious, or had so much to say, or would leave such a legacy of transforming ideas? 

There are prints, paintings, photographs, posters, films, furniture, sculptures, books, light shows, a van, and several full-scale installations you can sit in, walk around in, even lie down in: a zonohedron dome, a room full of hammocks, a Relaxation Cube, a Knowledge Box (where hundreds of photographic images are flashed on the walls), a gallery looping psychedelic films, a grove of citrus trees.

Most items in the show date from between 1964 (the year Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters traveled from California to the New York World’s Fair in a painted school bus, handing out free LSD along the way) to 1974, the year the OPEC oil embargo was lifted. The items are organized into three sections named for Timothy Leary’s mantra: “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”

“Turn On” includes films, paintings, and conceptual work meant to alter perception and expand individual consciousness, including a Hans-Rucker-Co “Mind Expander 2” chair meant to be used by two people, probably not only for consciousness-raising pursuits. “Tune In” explores the power of print to connect and form networks of like-minded individuals. Blauvelt helpfully explained that “print was the form of the Internet at that time that drew people together.” A terrific collection of posters includes many powerful examples by Los Angeles nun Sister Corita. “Drop Out” is not about dropping acid, but dropping out of mainstream society – into, perhaps, an invisible house in the woods.

Hippies – a term that might or might not have been coined by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, who named the Beatniks – have not held up well in history’s light. But they had a wealth of good ideas, many of which are no longer radical or countercultural and have found their way into our lives: the interest in yoga and Eastern spirituality, recycling, the sharing economy, environmental awareness, concerns about social and economic inequality, social protest movements, the search for alternative forms of energy.

MinnPost photo by John Whiting
“Garden—A World Model” by Öyvind Fahlström

Spend time, if you can, with Öyvind Fahlström’s “Garden—A World Model,” a deceptively serene sculpture in a room of its own. Painted metal forms that look like abstract flowers float above terra cotta pots on a platform surrounded by a thick green carpet. (You’ll have to slip off your shoes before going in.) Lean down to read the text written on the forms and it’s depressingly contemporary: the expansion of U.S. corporate and military imperialism; Third World debt; global ecological decline; the use of pesticides. And that was 40 years ago.

For what is arguably the wow of the exhibition, an entire gallery has been given to 18 large pots where citrus trees grow beneath artificial light. “Portable Orchard: Survival Piece Number 5” by Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison was influenced by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” The Walker’s executive director Olga Viso thinks it will be especially popular during the winter months.

“Hippie Modernism” was organized with help from the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It travels from here to the Cranbrook, where Blauvelt gets to show it off again, and then to Berkeley. Several related events are scheduled, starting with today’s Walker After Hours, a late-night launch party and preview, and a panel discussion tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 24) led by Blauvelt.

The panel discussion is highly recommended, since Blauvelt won’t be around anymore, and this show is near and dear to him. He’s been thinking about the phrase “Hippie Modernism” for 25 years, when he first came across it as a graduate student. “Sometimes language has a way of sticking in your brain,” he said. FMI.


A most excellent diversion: a video honoring the life, work and character of Justice Alan Page, who was feted Oct. 20 at a special event hosted by the Citizens League. A sampling of his advice: “Don’t worry about what you’re doing. Just find excellence in everything you do.” Now let’s all try to be better people. 

The picks

Tonight at 514 Studios: The Shirt Show. A gallery show of T-shirts created by dozens of local designers, illustrators and other artists. Quantities are limited. The beer is not; $5 gets you all you can drink. Who doesn’t need a new T-shirt? 514 N. 3rd St. #101, Minneapolis. 5:30 – 11 p.m. FMI.

Tonight through Sunday at the Cowles: James Sewell Ballet Fall Season. For its 22nd  season, JSB dances new collaborations and old favorites. Sewell’s “New Moves” features original music by Minneapolis composer Steven Rydberg and the Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble. Also on the program: the pas de deux from the 19th-century ballet “Le Corsaire,” Sewell’s “Grave Matters” and New York choreographer Joanna Kotze’s “The Rest of Everything.” FMI and tickets ($30/$36).

Tonight through Nov. 1 at the Southern: Twin Cities Horror Festival IV. Whoops, this started yesterday, but every show repeats several times. Eleven (well, ten) days of spooky, scary, sometimes silly theater, dance, music and film at the Southern, which can be a creepy place when the lights go down, or off. With Four Humors, Ghoulish Delights, the Coldharts, The Importance of Being Fotus, Dangerous Productions, Horror Show Hotdog, and more. FMI and tickets ($14-$15).

Saturday at the intersection of 41st Avenue South and Minnehaha Avenue: Minne-Mile Nightmarket. A family-friendly event celebrating the Minnehaha Avenue neighborhoods and shops. With live music, local food, food trucks, booths and shopping, demonstrations, a bouncy house, and film clips at dusk. 6-10 p.m. Free. FMI.

Photo by David Samuel Stern
Seán Curran Company: “Dream’d in a Dream”

Saturday at Northrop: Seán Curran Company: Dream’d in a Dream. Founded in 1997, based in New York City, Seán Curran Company traveled to Central Asia in 2012 as cultural ambassadors of the U.S. State Department. While there, they met and heard the traditional Kyrgyz folk ensemble Ustatshakirt. That meeting led to a collaboration, and Ustatshakirt will join Seán Curran Company at Northrop to play live for this evening-length work. Here’s a taste of their haunting sound. FMI and tickets ($33-$58).

Monday at Common Good Books: Dr. Duchess Harris discusses her new book “Black Lives Matter.” Written for middle and high school students, “Black Lives Matter” covers politically important police shootings of black Americans over the past three years, the work of activists to bring about a more just legal system, and the tensions in U.S. society that these events have brought to light. Harris, who wrote the book with Sue Bradford Edwards, chairs the American Studies department at Macalester. She will be joined by Keith Hardy of the St. Paul school board. 7 p.m. Free.

Monday at Christ Church Lutheran: Accordo. The acclaimed chamber ensemble comprised of principal string players from the SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra begins its seventh season with music by Milhaud, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn and guest pianist Rieko Aizawa. With Rebecca Albers, Ruggero Allifranchini, Steven Copes, Erin Keefe, Kyu-Young Kim, Maiya Papach and Anthony Ross, plus former SPCO principal cellist Ronald Thomas. Stick around after for drinks and small bites with the musicians and other audience members. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($21-$31). Designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, Christ Church Lutheran is a National Historic Landmark. 

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