Haight Ashbury meets Silicon Valley in ‘Hippie Modernism’

There’s no kitschy flower power in “Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia” at the University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

The exhibition — drawings, posters, documents, photographs, blueprints, paintings, newspapers, furniture, sculpture and experimental film — examines how environmental and social principles espoused by 1960s-70s counter culture leaders have influenced today’s art, architecture and design.

Mentioning that the show’s opening coincided with the museum’s first anniversary in its downtown location (and distinctively renovated building), BAMPFA curator Lawrence Rinder at a preview on Tuesday called it the first “to explore the global impact” of counter culture ideas and added, “It could not be about nostalgia and the past.”

Andrew Blauvelt, who curated the show for Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where it originated, said compiling its contents was tough, because the movement “was anti-disciplinary in nature” and its materials were intended for everyday life, not museums.

Notable art pieces include abstract paintings by Isaac Abrams, “Roomscraper,” a 1969 sculpture of a huge finger by Austrian architects Haus-Rucker Co., and Evelyn Roth’s textile apparel created from recycled thrift store sweaters.

An installation by Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida called “CC5 Hendrixwar/Cosmococa Programa-in-Progress,” with projections, hammocks and 1960s rock music, fills its own room.

There are copies of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog as well as numerous and extensive design plans for alternative, earth-friendly living spaces including geodesic domes and portable homes.

A wooden structure dubbed “The Knowledge Box” by Ken Isaacs offers light, sound, photograph and text images flashing via slide projectors, in a fashion not unlike how information electronically reaches consumers today.

Another prophetic piece is “Community Memory,” a 1973 computer system (encased in a wood container resembling an arcade game) created in Berkeley and considered by some to be the world’s first social network.

Perhaps the most fascinating pieces pertain to the Bay Area, including powerful political posters by Emory Douglas from the Black Panther newspaper; covers of the Berkeley Barb and Berkeley Tribe newspapers (with headlines screaming “Seize the Town”); and works by under-appreciated Berkeley women artists.

Frances Butler’s fabrics and screen-printed textiles address social and political themes, as does Sonya Rapoport’s 1973 acrylic and pencil on canvas, “Koch II,” which combines scientific references and images representing the female anatomy, making a statement echoed by “nasty” women today exercising their right to resistance.

A full roster of community programs accompanies the show, as does a film series with gems such as “Medium Cool,” set against 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the pivotal Vietnam era antiwar documentary “In the Year of the Pig.”

The museum also has launched an app, “Free the Love,” to market the show. which ad executive Rich Silverstein described as “Haight Ashbury meets Silicon Valley.”

Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia

Where: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., Berkeley
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, until 9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; closes May 21
Admission: $10 to $12
Contact: (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

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