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de Young Museum show recalls seminal 1967 summer

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A room of colorful posters from the era is a highlight of “The Summer of Love Experience” at the de Young Museum. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The phrase “summer of love” seems to be everywhere in the Bay Area these days: adorning bus ads; at the theater, opera and ballet; with tour groups; at street festivals, and in institutions including the Berkeley Art Museum (“Hippie Modernism”) and the GLBT Museum (“Lavender Tinted Glasses”).

Yet the behemoth is the de Young Museum’s “The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion & Rock and Roll,” a 50th anniversary celebration of the flamboyant counterculture that flowered around the legendary San Francisco summer of 1967,

The gorgeously curated and displayed exhibition, on view through Aug. 20, is walking distance to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, undeniably the epicenter of the hippie movement — a mindset that led to changes in society from environmentalism to sexual liberation to challenges to the nuclear family.

The counterculture touched many facets of America, offering alternatives to the mainstream that still flourish today.

The exhibition — organized by Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco curators Jill D’Alessandro, Colleen Terry and Julian Cox — presents more than 400 significant cultural artifacts of the time, including 150 objects from the Fine Arts Museums’ permanent collection, supplemented by iconic loaned items.

The galleries, with walls painted in Chinese red, seamlessly flow into each other, showcasing photographs, clothing (created with a range of techniques and materials, including leather, hand-painting, knitting and crotchet, embroidery, denim and tie-dye), hand-made vegan boots by master cobbler Mickey McGowan, posters, and publications (such as the long defunct, yet influential San Francisco Oracle and the Haight- Ashbury Tribune).

Photographs feature well-known “local bands” that became global musical icons (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company), important social and political gatherings, including the Trips festival at Longshoreman’s Hall on Jan. 21, 1966 and the now famous “A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In” at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park on Jan 14, 1967. Both were shot by Gene Anthony.

Other photos include Herb Greene’s iconic 1967 “Dead on Haight Street,” of The Grateful Dead posing at Haight and Ashbury Streets. Another arresting black-and-white is “Section of the Runaway Board at Park Police Station, 1968,” by Larry Keenan, which features more than 30 snapshots of missing runaways.

Classic rock posters, which have come to define graphic design of the period, illustrate work by artists including Rick Griffin, Robert Fried, Stanley Mouse and others.

While many of the colorful and psychedelic music-themed and political signs are interspersed in the galleries, they’re particularly dazzling, displayed from floor to ceiling in one spectacular installation, with rock ‘n’ roll audio.

For a detailed introduction to the show, visit http://digitalstories.famsf.org/summer-of-love.

The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion & Rock and Roll
Where: de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; closes Aug. 20
Admission: $10 (youth) to $25 (general)
Contact: (415) 750-3600, deyoung.famsf.org

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