Authority on ’60s countercultural design curates ‘Hippie Modernism’ exhibit

Waite Home

This giant tree house, known as the Waite Home in Canyon, a rural community not far from Berkeley, has a back-to-nature feel. (1971 photo by Barry Shapiro, courtesy of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library)

“Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia” opens this week (Wednesday, Feb. 8) at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, celebrating the expansive intersection of the radical art, architecture and design of the 1960s and early ’70s counterculture.

A big thanks goes to guest curator Greg Castillo, a UC Berkeley associate professor of architecture who has written and lectured extensively on the counterculture movement’s influence on architecture and graphic design. Castillo was tasked with adding materials to  the original “Hippie Modernism” exhibition shown last year at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Everything needed to be ready in time for this year’s 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

“We’ve added about 80 objects and over 100 photographed images, including many that have never been exhibited before,” Castillo told Avi Salem, a writer with the College of Environmental Design’s external relations office.

Greg Castillo (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design)

“There are totally wild samples of hippie couture and fabric art; photo documentation of extraordinary hippie hand-built houses and of the Emeryville Mudflats Gallery, a do-it-yourself sculpture park that once bordered Interstate 80; psychedelic fluorescent graphic arts prints made at the Drop City commune in Colorado; even decorated LSD blotter papers — their chemical content completely neutralized after 50 years of exposure to light and air, otherwise we never could have included them,” said Castillo.

He hopes visitors enjoy what they see and hear at the multi-faceted exhibition, but he hopes they take it seriously, too: “More than anything else, I hope that visitors will walk away … with a new respect for hippies as innovators in realms ranging from cybernetics and expanded consciousness to creative practices and liberation politics. The time has come, I think, to recognize their roster of accomplishments and to see what we can learn from them.”

Hippie Modernism programming kicks off with a chat with Castillo at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8.


Read more on the CED website